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Salzburgring WTCC: Sebastien Loeb leads Saturday practice

Fresh from victory at the Slovakia-Ring a fortnight ago, Sebastien Loeb led the way in World Touring Car Championship practice at the Salzburgring on Saturday morning.

The World Rally Championship legend recorded his fastest time of 1m22.421s in the second of two free practice sessions.

Loeb's FP2 effort shaded championship leader Jose Maria Lopez by 0.149 seconds, while reigning WTCC champion Yvan Muller ended the morning in third.

Friday's testing pacesetter Lopez recorded the benchmark time of 1m22.771s in FP1, 0.197s ahead of Muller.

The second session was stopped after seven minutes when Hugo Valente suffered a high-speed crash on the entry to the Fahrerlagerkurve while attempting to maintain a slipstream from the dominant C-Elysee of Loeb.

Valente's troubles began when he cut the inside of the Turn 9 right-hander, sending his Campos Chevrolet wide.

Faced with little room to manoeuvre, the Frenchman applied a correction before spearing off the circuit to his left.

After sustaining a head-on impact against the barriers, the Cruze bounced back into the road, bringing a litter of gravel with it and forcing the following Tom Chilton and Lopez to take avoiding action.

A 20-minute clean-up interval precipitated Hungaroring reversed-grid winner Gianni Morbidelli knocking the Argentinean from his position at the head of the timing screens.

In the closing five minutes of the half-hour session, the Citroen trio responded to Morbidelli's challenge and resumed a one-two-three formation.

Munnich Motorsport racer Morbidelli survived to end the morning 'best of the rest', ahead of the fifth-placed leading Honda of former champion Gabriele Tarquini and Tom Coronel.

The opening session was also incident-packed, and was interrupted twice by red flags, denying Muller a late attempt at toppling Lopez's FP1 fastest time when the session was abandoned.

Loeb had been assisting his Citroen team-mate Muller in providing a slipstream when Mikhail Kozlovskiy's faltering Lada caused a stoppage with just 55 seconds of the scheduled half hour running time remaining.

Coronel ended FP1 in fourth, ahead of Valente who was also in the wars in the opening session.

After enduring power-steering problems on his factory Honda in Friday's test, Tarquini secured sixth ahead of Norbert Michelisz.

Zengo Motorsport racer Michelisz had survived a high-speed trip through the gravel during FP1, but the most significant incident occurred 13 minutes into the session when TC2 competitor Pasquale Di Sabatino lost the rear of his Engstler BMW at the Fahrerlagerkurve.

The Italian spun and embedded the front-right corner of his 320 TC into the Turn 10 tyre barriers, bringing out the red flags.

Lopez had already recorded his benchmark lap at the time of the crash, and Citroen were entrenched at the head of the classification.

Mehdi Bennani and Lada's James Thompson suffered separate moments running off the road on the exit of the final chicane.

In a troubled start to his Salzburg weekend, Thompson has been retrospectively excluded from the preceding Slovakia-Ring and Hungaroring race results, owing to an unauthorised break to the seal on his engine's oil sump.

The Briton and team-mate Mikhail Kozlovskiy are set to start from the final row of the grid at the Salzburgring's opening race, after Lada requested engine changes on their Granta 1.6Ts.

Practice 1                                                         
Pos Driver                Team               Time       Gap    Laps
 1. Jose Maria Lopez      Citroen            1m22.771s          14 
 2. Yvan Muller           Citroen            1m22.968s  +0.197s 13 
 3. Sebastien Loeb        Citroen            1m23.221s  +0.450s 14 
 4. Tom Coronel           ROAL Chevrolet     1m23.253s  +0.482s 14 
 5. Hugo Valente          Campos Chevrolet   1m23.321s  +0.550s 11 
 6. Gabriele Tarquini     Honda              1m23.342s  +0.571s 18 
 7. Norbert Michelisz     Zengo Honda        1m23.508s  +0.737s 15 
 8. Tom Chilton           ROAL Chevrolet     1m23.570s  +0.799s 15 
 9. Tiago Monteiro        Honda              1m23.581s  +0.810s 14 
10. Dusan Borkovic        Campos Chevrolet   1m23.587s  +0.816s 16 
11. Mehdi Bennani         Proteam Honda      1m23.689s  +0.918s 11 
12. Gianni Morbidelli     Munnich Chevrolet  1m23.750s  +0.979s 8  
13. Robert Huff           Lada               1m24.318s  +1.547s 15 
14. Rene Munnich          Munnich Chevrolet  1m24.421s  +1.650s 20 
15. James Thompson        Lada               1m24.688s  +1.917s 12 
16. Mikhail Kozlovskiy    Lada               1m25.625s  +2.854s 9  
17. Franz Engstler        Engstler BMW       1m27.693s  +4.922s 17 
18. Pasquale Di Sabatino  Engstler BMW       1m28.668s  +5.897s 6  
19. John Filippi          Campos SEAT        1m28.919s  +6.148s 17 
Practice 2                                                         
Pos Driver                Team               Time       Gap    Laps
 1. Sebastien Loeb        Citroen            1m22.421s          16 
 2. Jose Maria Lopez      Citroen            1m22.570s  +0.149s 16 
 3. Yvan Muller           Citroen            1m22.634s  +0.213s 15 
 4. Gianni Morbidelli     Munnich Chevrolet  1m22.778s  +0.357s 14 
 5. Gabriele Tarquini     Honda              1m22.846s  +0.425s 16 
 6. Tom Coronel           ROAL Chevrolet     1m22.931s  +0.510s 13 
 7. Mehdi Bennani         Proteam Honda      1m23.045s  +0.624s 19 
 8. Tom Chilton           ROAL Chevrolet     1m23.130s  +0.709s 14 
 9. Dusan Borkovic        Campos Chevrolet   1m23.197s  +0.776s 15 
10. Tiago Monteiro        Honda              1m23.346s  +0.925s 16 
11. Norbert Michelisz     Zengo Honda        1m23.457s  +1.036s 18 
12. Hugo Valente          Campos Chevrolet   1m23.878s  +1.457s 3  
13. Rene Munnich          Munnich Chevrolet  1m23.977s  +1.556s 17 
14. Robert Huff           Lada               1m24.141s  +1.720s 12 
15. James Thompson        Lada               1m24.697s  +2.276s 12 
16. Mikhail Kozlovskiy    Lada               1m25.633s  +3.212s 8  
17. Franz Engstler        Engstler BMW       1m26.742s  +4.321s 15 
18. John Filippi          Campos SEAT        1m28.180s  +5.759s 18 
19. Pasquale Di Sabatino  Engstler BMW       1m28.763s  +6.342s 12 
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