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Tarquini ends first WTCC practice at the Algarve more than 0.5s clear of field

Gabriele Tarquini 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

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Menu dominates Algarve race two
Muller holds off Tarquini in race one
Tarquini claims Algarve pole
Muller edges Menu in second session
Tarquini plays down FP1 advantage