Yvan Muller, Sébastien Loeb and José María López were in a league of their own and inflicted huge gaps to the rest of the field.
The three of them were able to complete perfect Q3 laps and the fight for pole position was decided by fractions of a second. Eventually Muller was even more prefect than his team-mates, beating Loeb by 0.145, while López was classified third a further 0.045 adrift.
Hugo Valente showed once again to be on a fast learning curve and qualified his Campos Chevrolet in fourth – although one second off the pace – beating Gabriele Tarquini’s Honda Civic.
Yvan Muller immediately made his intentions clear by posting a 2:23.880 on only his second flying lap; a time which would stand for the remainder of that part. He beat team mates López and Loeb, the Argentine setting his fastest time on his third lap. Though he set absolute fastest sector times in S1 and S2, López was 0.116 seconds shy of provisional pace. Loeb finished in third, while surprisingly Moscow winner Ma Qing Hua set only the 14th time; the first-ever time this season a Citroën did not make it to Q2. Valente was the fastest Chevrolet in fourth, and Tarquini the fastest Honda in fifth. Huff was the quickest Lada in 13th and immediately departed again for the Nürburgring. Franz Engstler again qualified on pole for the TC2T class.
Drivers going through to Q2 were Muller, López, Loeb, Valente, Tarquini, Borković, Morbidelli, Monteiro, Coronel, Chilton, Michelisz and Bennani.
With only ten minutes of track time available for Q2, this meant drivers would effectively have only two proper flying laps to get it all sorted.
After their first flying lap, López led the Citroën train with a time of 2:23.204, ahead of Muller in 2:23.711 and Loeb in 2:23.867; the only drivers under the 2:24-barrier.
On their second lap, Muller improved his S1 time but couldn’t squeeze another flyer out of his C-Elysée. None of the other front runners improved significantly, though Valente showed his talent by putting his privateer Chevrolet ahead of the works Honda cars.
López, Muller, Loeb, Valente and Tarquini made it through to Q3; three Citroëns, one Chevrolet and one Honda. Monteiro finished in sixth but will start in 11th because of his 5-place Moscow penalty. Morbidelli will start Race 2 from pole position after qualifying in tenth.
Small surprise in Q3 with provisional pole sitter López setting absolute fastest sector times in S2 and S3, but somehow not managing so in S1, hence a third-place grid position behind team mates Muller and Loeb. The three Citroens qualified within 0.191 seconds of each other. Valente is fourth, Tarquini fifth.