His time of 1:56.486 is a new qualifying lap record for Monza and nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the previous record set last year by Gabriele Tarquini.
Behind the French driver on the grid will be two other Chevrolet Cruze cars of Tom Chilton and Alex MacDowall with the latter also the highest placed of the Yokohama Trophy contenders.
Muller said: “I did not expect to be on pole. I was expecting to be in the top-five.
"It is a magic feeling as you must remember that three weeks ago I still did not expect to be here in Monza.
" I have to thank our sponsors and the whole RML team for this. The car has not been improved. I only had two days of testing before coming to Monza.
"Maybe I am improving with the age… Most of the track has been resurfaced, which explains why my pole position lap was so much faster than last year’s.
"It’s never easy to win races, especially here at Monza. Last year there were tyre problems. And it looks the weather will be wet. We know we can be quick on the dry, now we have to see if we are fast on the wet as well.”
Meanwhile the stewards of the meeting judged Gabriele Tarquini and Aleksei Dudukalo guilty of causing incidents during qualifying.
Tarquini hit the SEAT of René Münnich at the Parabolica and sent him spinning onto the gravel trap.
Dudukalo missed the braking point at the first chicane and t-boned the LADA car of his own team-mate James Thompson.
Both drivers were given a drop of five places on the grid for Sunday's first race. This will demote Tarquini from fifth to tenth and Dudukalo from 16th to 21st
The season got off to a dramatic start when the SEAT of reigning world champion Rob Huff made contact with Fredy Barth’s BMW on the very first lap, leaving the León stranded on the circuit with broken front left suspension.
Once the red-flag period ended, it was Muller who set the early pace ahead of Michel Nykjær and Tom Chilton, but on lap four Dudukalo collided with his LADA Sport Lukoil team-mate Thompson.
It happened going into Turn 1 and the Russian driver would play no further part in the session. Thompson, though, was able to limp back to the pits so his mechanics could repair the damage and so he could start Q2.
The following drivers went through to Q2: Muller, Chilton, Nykjær, MacDowall, Oriola, Nash, Tarquini, O’Young, Basseng, Thompson, Monje, D’Aste.
Muller’s pole-winning time occurred on only his second lap, with his RML teammate Tom Chilton (1:57.345) setting the second-fastest time on Lap 3.
Alex MacDowall (1:57.685) was third quickest in the bamboo-engineering Cruze with Pepe Oriola’s SEAT (1:57.833) the best non-Chevrolet. Tarquini’s Castrol Honda Civic (1:57.946) rounded off the top five.
James Nash (1:58.005), Michel Nykjær (1:58.172), Marc Basseng (1:8.518), James Thompson (1:58.669) and Darryl O’Young (1:58.781) completed the top ten. Fernando Monje (1:58.814) was eleventh fastest and Stefano D’Aste (2:00.475) twelfth.
Thanks to the reversed grid, it will be the BMW 320 TC of Darryl O’Young that will start race two from pole position.
- Sports & Recreation
- Motor Racing
- Gabriele Tarquini
- Tom Chilton
- Alex MacDowall