Tarquini ends first WTCC practice at the Algarve more than 0.5s clear of field
|By Peter Mills||Saturday, June 2nd 2012, 09:14 GMT|
Gabriele Tarquini demonstrated impressive early pace in the opening World Touring Car Championship free practice session at the Algarve.
The Italian ended the morning half a second clear of championship leader Yvan Muller (RML Chevrolet). The Lukoil SEAT driver led through much of the session, breaking into the 1m54s three minutes before the chequered flag and extending his advantage on a final run to record a fastest time of 1m54.572s.
The Algarve returns to the WTCC calendar this year as a late replacement for Estoril. Tarquini was a winner on the series' last visit to the 2.98 mile circuit in 2010, when SEATs claimed victories in both races.
Alain Menu, sporting a one-off livery of comic book hero Michel Vaillant this weekend, took third ahead of his Chevrolet team-mate Rob Huff.
Hungaroring reversed-grid winner Norbert Michelisz was the top-BMW runner in fifth. The Zengo Motorsport driver headed the similar machines of ROAL Motorsport duo Alberto Cerqui and Tom Coronel.
Arena's James Nash enjoyed a slipstream from the lone Proteam BMW of Mehdi Bennani on his last lap to jump from outside the top 10 into eighth. Making his return to this year's WTCC after a promising outing at the Hungaroring, James Thompson rounded out the top 10 in the Lada Granta.
Should Thompson qualify in the fastest 12 in Q1 this weekend, the former British Touring Car champion will not be allowed to progress into Q2 as the Granta is ineligible to score points.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT 1m54.572s 2. Yvan Muller Chevrolet 1m55.070s + 0.498s 3. Alain Menu Chevrolet 1m55.659s + 1.087s 4. Robert Huff Chevrolet 1m55.898s + 1.326s 5. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 1m56.257s + 1.685s 6. Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW 1m56.259s + 1.687s 7. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 1m56.297s + 1.725s 8. James Nash Arena Ford 1m56.360s + 1.788s 9. Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT 1m56.431s + 1.859s 10. James Thompson Lada 1m56.446s + 1.874s 11. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 1m56.456s + 1.884s 12. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 1m56.745s + 2.173s 13. Alex MacDowall bamboo Chevrolet 1m56.836s + 2.264s 14. Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW 1m56.939s + 2.367s 15. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 1m57.034s + 2.462s 16. Pasquale di Sabatino bamboo Chevrolet 1m57.112s + 2.540s 17. Tiago Monteiro Tuenti SEAT 1m57.117s + 2.545s 18. Tom Chilton Arena Ford 1m57.244s + 2.672s 19. Charles Ng Engstler BMW 1m57.530s + 2.958s 20. Darryl O'Young Special Tuning SEAT 1m57.600s + 3.028s 21. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 1m57.650s + 3.078s 22. Gabor Weber Zengo BMW 1m58.008s + 3.436s