Quotes from the fastest drivers after today’s qualifying session at Suzuka International Circuit.
José María López, DHL polesitter: “It was definitely one of the tightest qualifying sessions of the season, but eventually it went well for me, although it was tough. Sector 1 was the one posing me most problems, but when I heard on the radio that I had done quite a good time, I started pushing and thinking I might have a chance. Tomorrow is going to be another day, I don't want to think about it much. So far, I have worked as usual throughout the weekend and that is what I will do tomorrow as well. The rest... will happen if it is in God's will..."
Yvan Muller, 2nd: “I am happy because I have made similar times in Q2 and Q3, that wasn't enough to keep the top position, but it was a good qualifying session. Maybe I was a little bit too hard on the brakes in turn 15, but the most important is that after the set-up issues of yesterday, today we were able to correct the situation and fight for the pole.”
Sébastien Loeb, 3rd: “To be so close to the pole and to my team-mates in such a challenging track is a big satisfaction. I enjoyed the circuit very much. In Q2, I had to abort my first attempt, as Bennani in front of me lost his car and I had to brake and go wide to avoid him. Still, I was able to make it to Q3 in which the only mistake I have done, after a very good sector 1, was braking too hard at the chicane.”
Franz Engstler, 1st in TC2T class: “We had a good fight with Filippi throughout the session and I am happy to have taken the pole. The team did a great job in giving me a perfect car. Tomorrow it is going to be close fight again, as I think that this great track, which I enjoy very much, is more favourable to front-wheel-drive cars.”
José María López conquered his sixth pole of the season in a very closely-fought qualifying session with his Citroën team-mates Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb.
In the decisive Q3, Loeb was fastest in the first sector, Muller was fastest in the second, but López, with an astonishing third sector, eventually took the pole (and stretched his championship lead by one, crucial point), leaving Muller only 75 thousandths behind and Loeb 151. Very marginal gaps in such a log racetrack. The Citroën cars proved once again to be in a league of their own. In the battle behind them, the winners were the Chevrolet cars of Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente, who made it to the top 5.
It was a difficult qualifying at home for the Honda, with Norbert Michelisz putting the best Civic in P6, although Gabriele Tarquini will start from pole position on the top-ten reverse grid for Race 2. Franz Engstler took pole in the TC2T class ahead of Filippi.
Q1 – Conditions were perfect for Q1, although the sky began to get overcast after two days of gorgeous weather. The first drivers to shine were the Chevrolet drivers, with Chilton posting an excellent 2:06.790 ahead of Morbidelli and Valente who were, though, 1.5 seconds aback. Shortly afterwards Loeb, López, Tarquini and Coronel took the track, but action was disrupted by the red flag after de Souza spun at T7 and remained stuck in the gravel trap. That left everybody with basically only one lap opportunity on new tyres. It was Muller who clocked the best time (2:06.115) ahead of López (2:06.277) who tried another quick lap on the same tyres, in vain. Loeb was fourth behind Chilton and ahead of Tarquini, while Michelisz, who salvaged in extremis a P11 kicking Huff out of the top twelve. Morbidelli improved to sixth in the dying moments.
The following drivers advanced to Q2: Muller, López, Chilton, Loeb, Tarquini, Morbidelli, Coronel, Borković, Monteiro, Valente, Michelisz and Bennani.
Q2 – The first fast lap attempt saw Muller posting an excellent 2:05.512 ahead of López and the tree Chevrolet cars of Chilton, Valente and Morbidelli. Michelisz and Loeb who had been forced to abort their initial effort, pitted and changed tyres for a second opportunity. The Hungarian jumped in fifth, eliminating Morbidelli, but was immediately demoted to sixth by Loeb who was placed in third. No Honda cars passed the threshold to Q3.
The following drivers advanced to the final step: Muller, López, Loeb, Chilton and Valente.
Q3 – The hierarchy of Q2 was almost exactly respected in Q3, but López, with an excellent third sector (22.477) was able to beat team-mates Muller and Loeb, who had excelled in the second and first sectors, respectively.
The battle among the two Chevrolet cars was won by Chilton against Valente by little less than four tenths despite a couple of mistakes at braking.
Yvan Muller continued to lead in today’s practice, setting the fastest lap in the second session ahead of Gianni Morbidelli.
Norbert Michelisz topped the times in the early stages with a lap of 2:09.341; however the Hungarian was soon demoted to second by José María López’s 2:08.510. Sébastien Loeb was the next to post a provisional fastest lap of 2:08.311.
In the final part of the session Morbidelli improved further to 2:08.243, making his first appearance on top after struggling during yesterday’s test and this morning’s first practice.
However, the Italian’s leadership did not last for long as Muller clocked a 2:07.953 that settled the matter for good.
The session was the closest so far during the weekend, with Muller, Morbidelli, Loeb and Tiago Monteiro all covered by only four tenths of a second.
López and Gabriele Tarquini followed in fifth and sixth one further tenth adrift. Tom Chilton, Tom Coronel and Norbert Michelisz filled the positions from 7th to 9th with Rob Huff’s LADA in 10th.
Dušan Borković and Henry Kwong missed the whole session: the Serbian spun at T8 and hit the rails, breaking the front spoiler of his Chevrolet RML car, while Kwong’s SEAT stopped on the track with a technical failure.
John Filippi clocked the fastest lap in the TC2T class (2:15.406) beating Franz Engstler by one tenth.