Gabriele Tarquini scored his second World Touring Car pole position of the season, getting the better of Rob Huff by less than a tenth of a second in today's qualifying session at Porto.
Huff's Chevrolet had set the pace in the day's earlier practice session but SEAT's turbo diesel-powered Leons came to the fore in qualifying, first with championship leader Yvan Muller in Q1, then with Tarquini in the all-important Q2.
Tarquini lay ahead of Huff and Muller after the first runs in the 15-minute shootout, and the Italian had to rely on that time after he overshot one of the Portuguese street circuit's 90-degree left-handers and had to abort his second flying lap. Fortunately for the Italian, Huff and Menu were unable to better their times on their final runs due to traffic and yellow flags.
"I am very pleased to be on pole again," said Tarquini. "But statisically when I am on pole position I've never won, so I must crack this statistic."
Andy Priaulx was the best of the BMWs and will start fourth tomorrow. He too was unable to improve on his second run after finishing a couple of tenths shy of the front on his first.
Alain Menu will share the third row of the grid with local driver Tiago Monteiro, who was one of only two drivers to improve his time on his second run in Q2 to climb from 10th to sixth. The other was Augusto Farfus, who will line up behind Monteiro in seventh despite clipping the wall in the chicane on the back straight on his best lap.
The third Chevrolet of Nicola Larini will start eighth, while Rickard Rydell and Jordi Gene will fill the fifth row for SEAT after both made mistakes on their laps.
The BMWs of Alex Zanardi and Jorg Muller just missed making Q2 and will start 11th and 12th, while the competitiveness of all three manufacturer teams at Porto meant that the top independent driver qualified just 13th overall. That was Tom Coronel, who will start 13th with class rivals Stefano D'Aste, Felix Porteiro and Mehdi Bennani queued up behind him.
James Thompson qualified the new Lada Priora in 22nd place, four places and 1.8 seconds behind Jaap van Lagen's Lada 110.TIMES:
Pos Driver Car Q1 Q2
1. Gabriele Tarquini SEAT 2m09.471s 2m09.308s
2. Rob Huff Chevrolet 2m09.601s 2m09.395s
3. Yvan Muller SEAT 2m09.361s 2m09.493s
4. Andy Priaulx BMW 2m09.676s 2m09.563s
5. Alain Menu Chevrolet 2m09.856s 2m09.670s
6. Tiago Monteiro SEAT 2m09.892s 2m09.679s
7. Augusto Farfus BMW 2m09.928s 2m09.786s
8. Nicola Larini Chevrolet 2m09.797s 2m09.859s
9. Rickard Rydell SEAT 2m09.967s 2m10.089s
10. Jordi Gene SEAT 2m09.910s 2m10.448s
11. Alex Zanardi BMW 2m10.430s
12. Jorg Muller BMW 2m10.576s
13. Tom Coronel SEAT 2m11.330s
14. Stefano D'Aste BMW 2m11.505s
15. Felix Porteiro BMW 2m11.887s
16. Mehdi Bennani SEAT 2m11.964s
17. Sergio Hernandez BMW 2m12.007s
18. Jaap van Lagen Lada 2m12.058s
19. Franz Engstler BMW 2m12.146s
20. Kristian Poulsen BMW 2m13.271s
21. Tom Boardman SEAT 2m13.696s
22. James Thompson Lada 2m13.819s
23. Kirill Ladygin Lada 2m13.831s
24. Diego Puyo SEAT 2m13.976s