Argentina WTCC: Jose Maria Lopez leads practice one for Citroen

Reigning World Touring Car champion Jose Maria Lopez laid down a marker for his rivals by setting the pace in first practice for the 2015 season-opener in Argentina

Citroen's factory drivers operated a revolving door policy at the top of the timesheets as first Sebastien Loeb, then Ma Qing Hua, then finally Lopez staked their claim to the top spot.

Lopez's quickest time of 1m48.028s around the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, set mid-session, stood until the chequered flag.

Overnight rain had once again left wet patches on the circuit, many of which did not dry out in spite of warmer and sunnier conditions this morning. Nevertheless, within three laps the leading runners had shaved 5s off their times from Friday's test.

Mehdi Bennani, in the semi-works Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen C-Elysee, briefly went second fastest with a late charge of 1m48.719s, only to be displaced by Tiago Monteiro in the fastest of the works Hondas, who clocked 1m48.493s - 0.465 seconds off Lopez's benchmark - with his final flying lap.

Loeb closed the session fourth quickest ahead of Yvan Muller, who took to the track later than his team-mates and set his best time of 1m48.988s on his last lap.

INTERVIEW: Can vanquished champion Muller recover?

Monteiro's factory Honda team-mate Gabriele Tarquini only began lapping in anger in the latter part of the session and was sixth fastest.

The new Lada Vesta continued to show promise as Rob Huff posted the seventh fastest time (1m49.441s), but team-mate James Thompson spent much of the session in the garage while a mechanical problem was investigated.

Tom Chilton was comfortably the fastest of the Chevrolet runners, with over four tenths of a second in hand over the next fastest Cruze driven by Hugo Valente.

Chilton's ROAL team-mate Tom Coronel suffered a front-left puncture that damaged his car's bodywork and led to a red flag.

Dusan Borkovic was the quicker of the two private Hondas, ninth fastest overall and 0.085s ahead of Norbert Michelisz's Zengo-run Civic.


Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap
1 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m48.028s -
2 Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 1m48.493s 0.465s
3 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 1m48.719s 0.691s
4 Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m48.910s 0.882s
5 Yvan Muller Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m48.988s 0.960s
6 Gabriele Tarquini Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 1m49.432s 1.404s
7 Rob Huff LADA Sport Rosneft Lada 1m49.441s 1.413s
8 Tom Chilton ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 1m49.831s 1.803s
9 Dusan Borkovic Proteam Racing Honda 1m50.162s 2.134s
10 Norbert Michelisz Zengo Motorsport Honda 1m50.247s 2.219s
11 Hugo Valente Campos Racing Chevrolet 1m50.325s 2.297s
12 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 1m50.408s 2.380s
13 Ma Qinghua Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m50.434s 2.406s
14 John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet 1m50.474s 2.446s
15 Rickard Rydell Nika International Honda 1m50.710s 2.682s
16 Stefano D'Aste Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 1m50.792s 2.764s
17 James Thompson LADA Sport Rosneft Lada 1m51.408s 3.380s
18 Gregoire Demoustier Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet 1m51.466s 3.438s


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Argentina WTCC: Jose Maria Lopez stays on top in practice two