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WTCC NEWS 

Paul Ricard WTCC: Jose Maria Lopez sets test pace for Citroen

Jose Maria Lopez, Citroen, Paul Ricard WTCC 2014

World Touring Car Championship leader Jose Maria Lopez set the fastest time in the test for round two at Paul Ricard on Friday.

Lopez produced his quickest time of 1m31.227s within the final two minutes of the half-hour test to demote fellow Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb from the top of the timesheets by 0.138s.

Former TC2000 champion Lopez had set the initial pace thanks to a time of 1m32.158s.

It took the Argentine's team-mates until approaching the final third of the test to offer a response, when Loeb found in excess of a one-second improvement over his previous best time.

Zengo Motorsport's Norbert Michelisz spilt up the C-Elysee trio, completed by Yvan Muller, and took top non-Citroen honours in third with two minutes left on the clocks.

The Honda driver ended the afternoon 0.908s adrift of Lopez's benchmark.

Fresh from his maiden WTCC podium in Marrakech, fast improving Frenchman Hugo Valente also caused a late upset to mix it with the Citroens in fourth.

Reigning WTCC champion Muller was fifth, ahead of last year's Superstars champion Gianni Morbidelli.

Former grand prix driver Morbidelli is hoping to kick-start his WTCC comeback at Paul Ricard, having been forced to start from last on the grid in Morocco owing to a practice accident involving Gabriele Tarquini.

Tiago Monteiro was leading works Honda racer in seventh. Team-mate Tarquini's first 2014 Civic WTCC TC1 was destroyed last week when it was T-boned by Morbidelli.

The Italian's replacement machine was only completed on Thursday, but allowed him to take 10th fastest.

"The car was built up using the shell of our test car," explained Tarquini. "It was a great effort and the work only finished yesterday, but of course now we don't have a spare car."

Pos Driver                 Car                 Time       Gap    Laps
 1. Jose Maria Lopez       Citroen             1m31.227s           11
 2. Sebastien Loeb         Citroen             1m31.365s  +0.138s  12
 3. Norbert Michelisz      Zengo Honda         1m32.135s  +0.908s  15
 4. Hugo Valente           Campos Chevrolet    1m32.158s  +0.931s  11
 5. Yvan Muller            Citroen             1m32.383s  +1.156s  12
 6. Gianni Morbidelli      Munnich Chevrolet   1m32.704s  +1.477s  13
 7. Tiago Monteiro         Honda               1m32.725s  +1.498s  11
 8. Tom Chilton            ROAL Chevrolet      1m32.954s  +1.727s  14
 9. Dusan Borkovic         Campos Chevrolet    1m32.957s  +1.730s  12
10. Gabriele Tarquini      Honda               1m33.030s  +1.803s  8
11. Mehdi Bennani          Proteam Honda       1m33.051s  +1.824s  13
12. Rene Munnich           Munnich Chevrolet   1m33.762s  +2.535s  13
13. Rob Huff               Lada                1m34.040s  +2.813s  11
14. James Thompson         Lada                1m34.444s  +3.217s  14
15. Mikhail Kozlovskiy     Lada                1m35.395s  +4.168s  15
16. Franz Engstler         Engstler BMW        1m36.895s  +5.668s  14
17. Pasquale di Sabatino   Engstler BMW        1m38.212s  +6.985s  11
18. John Filippi           Campos SEAT         1m39.420s  +8.193s  12

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