Alain Menu quickest again in World Touring Car practice two at the Salzburgring
|Saturday, May 19th 2012, 11:17 GMT|
Alain Menu set the fastest time in the final World Touring Car free practice session at the Salzburgring before qualifying this afternoon, repeating his form from practice one.
The dominant force in this year's WTCC, the three factory RML Chevrolets, were separated by just 0.073 seconds. Each of the trio had taken turns in first place. Championship leader Yvan Muller led Slovakia Ring victor Rob Huff in the closing stages of the session, but pitted moments prior to the chequered flag and was unable to respond to a late effort from Menu.
As in the opening free practice session, the tight chicane at Turns 1 and 2 caught out several of the drivers, with all of the Chevrolets taking either to the escape road or, in Huff's case, the gravel.
Italian Pasquale di Sabatino enjoyed one of his most competitive sessions of the year in fourth. The bamboo-engineering Chevrolet driver continues to acclimatise to the WTCC following his career in single-seaters.
For much of the half-hour session the five Chevrolets on the entry occupied the top-five positions, suggesting that the high-speed Salzburgring circuit flatters the qualities of the Cruze.
Lukoil Racing's Gabriele Tarquini eventually broke up the Chevrolet stranglehold by claiming fifth in his SEAT, ahead of the second bamboo car of British Touring Car graduate Alex MacDowall.
Tarquini used the escape road on no fewer than three occasions, causing the race director to issue a warning about respecting the track limits at the chicane.
Spanish teenager Pepe Oriola has relatively recent experience of the Salzburgring, having finished second in the European Touring Car Cup at the of the Austrian venue last July. The Tuenti Racing driver took seventh in his Leon WTCC, ahead of team-mate Tiago Monteiro in the 1.6T-powered Leon.
The session was red-flagged twice. The first stoppage was caused when Darryl O'Young's Special Tuning SEAT hit a tyre pile on the inside of Turn 1, forcing the Leon to stop in the middle of the chicane.
Hungaroring podium finisher Mehdi Bennani (Proteam) and fellow BMW independent runner Gábor Weber (Zengo) also suffered off-track moments, at Turns 9 and Turn 13 respectively, to cause the second appearance of the red flags.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Alain Menu Chevrolet 1m27.304s 2. Yvan Muller Chevrolet 1m27.374s + 0.070s 3. Rob Huff Chevrolet 1m27.377s + 0.073s 4. Pasquale di Sabatino bamboo Chevrolet 1m27.995s + 0.691s 5. Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT 1m28.024s + 0.720s 6. Alex MacDowall bamboo Chevrolet 1m28.103s + 0.799s 7. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 1m28.474s + 1.170s 8. Tiago Monteiro Tuenti SEAT 1m28.546s + 1.242s 9. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 1m28.604s + 1.300s 10. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 1m28.662s + 1.358s 11. James Nash Arena Ford 1m28.663s + 1.359s 12. Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW 1m28.837s + 1.533s 13. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 1m28.839s + 1.535s 14. Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW 1m28.963s + 1.659s 15. Tom Chilton Arena Ford 1m29.112s + 1.808s 16. Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT 1m29.205s + 1.901s 17. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 1m29.312s + 2.008s 18. Charles Ng Engstler BMW 1m29.314s + 2.010s 19. Darryl O'Young Special Tuning SEAT 1m30.027s + 2.723s 20. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 1m30.043s + 2.739s 21. Gabor Weber Zengo BMW 1m30.700s + 3.396s