Yvan Muller leads the way in WTCC first practice at Curitiba
|By Peter Mills||Saturday, July 21st 2012, 13:05 GMT|
Reigning champion Yvan Muller set the fastest time in the opening World Touring Car Championship free practice session at Curitiba, as the factory Chevrolet team occupied the top three positions.
Team-mate Rob Huff, who trails Muller by 18 points in this year's drivers' standings, was second quickest, three tenths adrift of the Frenchman's 1m22.689s benchmark.
Huff enjoyed a three tenth advantage over Friday pacesetter Alain Menu in the third Cruze, but the Briton anticipated the circuit to evolve considerably through the day.
"We're happy with the balance," said Huff, "but the track temperature increased by six degrees in that session alone and we expect it to be even warmer this afternoon. It was quite slippery as well. I think the track staff have relayed some wet turf around the kerbs on some apexes, and as people have cut corners or run wide they have brought some of it onto the track."
Gabriele Tarquini repeated his Friday test position of top non-factory Chevrolet driver in fourth in his SEAT, but was pessimistic about his chances of bridging the gap to the works cars.
"I think the Chevrolets are always quicker in every condition, but now that they are stopping, I don't think we'll see them playing any politics so much. That has finished. We are 40kg less than them here and seven tenths down - I think that's their potential."
Michel Nykjaer again impressed in his second day in the Bamboo Cruze. Drafted in to substitute for team's ill regular driver Pasquale Di Sabatino, Nykjaer finished the session in fifth.
The second Bamboo Cruze of WTCC rookie Alex MacDowall took sixth, ahead of Hungaroring reversed-grid victor Norbert Michelisz.
The Zengo Motorsport team is running a single BMW for Michelisz, as regular second driver Gabor Weber elected to skip the trip to Curitiba.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Yvan Muller Chevrolet 1m22.689s 2. Rob Huff Chevrolet 1m22.992s + 0.303s 3. Alain Menu Chevrolet 1m23.228s + 0.539s 4. Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT 1m23.328s + 0.639s 5. Michel Nykjaer Bamboo Chevrolet 1m23.563s + 0.874s 6. Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet 1m23.649s + 0.960s 7. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 1m24.124s + 1.435s 8. Darryl O'Young Special Tuning SEAT 1m24.247s + 1.558s 9. Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT 1m24.277s + 1.588s 10. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 1m24.325s + 1.636s 11. Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW 1m24.330s + 1.641s 12. Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW 1m24.382s + 1.693s 13. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 1m24.414s + 1.725s 14. Tiago Monteiro Tuenti SEAT 1m24.572s + 1.883s 15. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 1m24.610s + 1.921s 16. James Nash Arena Ford 1m25.008s + 2.319s 17. Charles Ng Engstler BMW 1m25.015s + 2.326s 18. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 1m25.119s + 2.430s 19. Tom Chilton Arena Ford 1m25.216s + 2.527s 20. Fernando Monje SUNRED SEAT 1m26.577s + 3.888s