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Shanghai WTCC: Alex MacDowall leads Friday test

Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet WTCC Shanghai 2012

Bamboo Engineering's Alex MacDowall set the fastest lap in testing for the penultimate round of the World Touring Car Championship at Shanghai.

The Suzuka Independents' class winner's 1m56.304s lap was 0.042 seconds faster than championship challenger Rob Huff's similar RML-run factory Cruze.

Huff is tied on 345 points with three-time champion Yvan Muller at the top of the drivers' standings, and is fighting for his first WTCC drivers' title to crown an eight-year stint in the championship.

Three-time champion Muller ended a cloudy but warm afternoon sixth fastest. The third factory Chevrolet of Alain Menu, the other title contender, could only manage 11th fastest. The Swiss driver is 38 points adrift in the standings.

Leading times in the half-hour test were closely fought, and Spaniard Pepe Oriola finished within a tenth of MacDowall's benchmark in third. The SUNRED SEAT driver made strong inroads into Norbert Michelisz's Independents' points lead in Japan, taking second position at Suzuka a fortnight ago.

Tiago Monteiro provided a boost for the fledgling factory Honda Civic programme by briefly topping the times and ending the afternoon fourth.

Enjoying his maiden WTCC appearance of 2012, Colin Turkington signalled that he could mix it with the series regulars at Shanghai by securing fifth fastest aboard his WSR Chevrolet.

An incident at Turn 11, when a car hit a pack of tyres, caused the test to be red-flagged with eight minutes remaining. Turkington and the top three men were the only drivers to improve their times after the session was restarted.

ROAL Motorsport's Tom Coronel was the leading BMW driver in seventh, ahead of MacDowall's Bamboo team-mate Darryl O'Young.

Independent SEAT racers Tom Boardman and Fernando Monje completed the top 10. Monje, Mehdi Bennani and newcomers Alex Liu and Kelvin Leong survived quick spins while exploring the track limits.

French SEAT Leon Supercopa ace Hugo Valente was 23rd fastest for SUNRED on his WTCC debut.

Pos  Driver             Team/Car                Time       Gap
 1.  Alex MacDowall     Bamboo Chevrolet        1m56.304s
 2.  Rob Huff           Chevrolet               1m56.346s  + 0.042s
 3.  Pepe Oriola        SUNRED SEAT             1m56.387s  + 0.083s
 4.  Tiago Monteiro     Honda                   1m56.439s  + 0.135s
 5.  Colin Turkington   WSR Chevrolet           1m56.651s  + 0.347s
 6.  Yvan Muller        Chevrolet               1m56.653s  + 0.349s
 7.  Tom Coronel        ROAL BMW                1m56.735s  + 0.431s
 8.  Darryl O'Young     Bamboo Chevrolet        1m56.785s  + 0.481s
 9.  Tom Boardman       Special Tuning SEAT     1m56.931s  + 0.627s
10.  Fernando Monje     SUNRED SEAT             1m57.184s  + 0.880s
11.  Alain Menu         Chevrolet               1m57.188s  + 0.884s
12.  James Nash         Arena Ford              1m57.316s  + 1.012s
13.  Norbert Michelisz  Zengo BMW               1m57.360s  + 1.056s
14.  Gabriele Tarquini  Lukoil SEAT             1m57.423s  + 1.119s
15.  Aleksei Dudukalo   Lukoil SEAT             1m57.437s  + 1.133s
16.  Mehdi Bennani      Proteam BMW             1m57.532s  + 1.228s
17.  Stefano D'Aste     Wiechers BMW            1m57.607s  + 1.303s
18.  Tom Chilton        Arena Ford              1m57.688s  + 1.384s
19.  Charles Ng         Engstler BMW            1m58.093s  + 1.789s
20.  Franz Engstler     Engstler BMW            1m58.169s  + 1.865s
21.  Fredy Barth        SUNRED SEAT             1m58.506s  + 2.202s
22.  Alberto Cerqui     ROAL BMW                1m58.625s  + 2.321s
23.  Hugo Valente       SUNRED SEAT             1m59.455s  + 3.151s
24.  Eric Kwong         Look Fong Chevrolet     2m02.316s  + 6.012s
25.  Kelvin Leong       Song Veng Honda         2m03.078s  + 6.774s
26.  Filipe de Souza    China Dragon Chevrolet  2m03.123s  + 6.819s
27.  Kin Veng Ng        China Dragon Chevrolet  2m04.707s  + 8.403s
28.  Alex Liu           Engstler BMW            2m06.325s  + 10.021s
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