Alain Menu held off the challenge of Yvan Muller to secure his second pole position of the season following a hard fought exchange around the streets of Pau, the fourth round of the World Touring Car Championship.

With Menu and Muller having topped the two free practice sessions in the morning, it was appropriate the French-speaking duo would have a monopoly on proceedings in what become a typically fraught session that claimed several victims.

Most notable - and most spectacular - of these was Augusto Farfus who swiped the barrier heading into the Virage Foch chicane with the rear of his BMW 320si, throwing him into a dramatic flip that destroyed his car and sent marshals running for cover.

Landing on his roof, Farfus emerged from his battered Team Germany car seemingly OK, if no doubt somewhat shaken by the heavy impact.

His crash in the final seconds however ensured Menu would be on pole position, the Swiss driver taking the initiative at the 32nd minute of the extended 45-minute session with a visually exciting lap that saw him hopping over the track's fearsome kerbs.

To emphasise the point further though, Menu's final lap was good enough to eke out his margin to four tenths to repeat his pole winning exploits from Zandvoort, a race he went on to win.

Muller will line up alongside him on the grid, the Frenchman defying his fair amount of success ballast to impress his home fans, even if he will be disappointed to have missed out on the top spot having held provisional pole for much of the session.

Third was initially commandeered by Augusto Farfus, but he will be forced to serve a ten-place grid penalty, regardless of whether BMW are able to repair his heavily damaged 320si, placing him 13th.

Instead, Tiago Monteiro will start on the second row in only his third WTCC meeting after steadily rising through the ranks as the session wore on. Nicola Larini was a name that appeared at the top of the timesheets for a brief time only to fall back to fourth eventually, albeit not after stopping with a mechanical problem as the last few seconds ebbed away. Rob Huff meanwhile made it a day for Chevrolet to remember in fifth place, ensuring all three of their Lacettis will start inside the top five for the first race.

Of the immediate championship contenders, Andy Priaulx was sixth after hauling - and occasionally throwing over the kerbs - his heavy BMW to put him in a good position for points in a race that promises to see precious overtaking. By contrast, fellow championship leader Jorg Muller will start down in 16th position.

Jordi Gene will start seventh, ahead of Spanish compatriot Felix Porteiro, the BMW driver benefiting from another ten-place grid penalty for Gabriele Tarquini, the Italian qualifying eighth but starting 18th.

Olivier Tielemans will start a season-best ninth, albeit only after suffering two crashes, the first occurring at the start of the session, the second more terminal collision coming soon after he had set his best time. Crashing at the same place as Farfus, the Dutchman instead clipped the grass verge and was sent into the opposite barrier.

That nonetheless means he out-qualifies James Thompson for the first time, the Valencia victor starting 11th, just behind Tom Coronel's GR Asia SEAT.

Anthony Beltoise was the surprise leading Independent Trophy runner on his debut in the Exagon SEAT, the Frenchman securing 12th overall, with Stefano D'Aste and Sergio Hernandez following in 15th and 19th.

Their cause was arguably aided though by the non-appearance of Independent pace setter Roberto Colcaigo, who crashed in the second practice session, while Emmet O'Brien, Luca Rangoni and Pierre-Yves Corthals also found themselves victims of Pau's unforgiving walls before setting meaningful times.

 

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