Tom Coronel gave a hint that World Touring Car title favourite Chevrolet may not have everything its own way in 2011 by topping Curitiba's Friday afternoon test
The Dutchman, who has switched to Roberto Ravaglia's returning ROAL Motorsport BMW team after five years campaigning SEAT Leons, recorded a fastest time of 1m23.090s. Coronel's effort was some seven tenths faster than Chevrolet's lead pairing of Rob Huff and defending champion Yvan Muller in second and third.
"I felt like a rodeo rider in the morning shakedown," said Coronel. "I had to apologise to Roberto. I just said, 'I'm sorry I can't drive this car.' Having an ex-driver like Roberto as team boss really works. He's very hard on me, but this morning he calmed me down and said, 'Don't worry.'
"The car now feels completely different and I am not locking the brakes any more. I don't want to say anything bad about the car I drove last year, but coming back to rear-wheel drive is what I am used to. I have the same feeling as in my time in Japanese F3 and Nippon, with two or three degrees angle of slide. That lap time was completely clean. I did cut the first corner on the next lap passing [Kristian] Poulsen and [Alain] Menu, but it was clear that I then backed off."
Swiss racer Fredy Barth led the SEAT charge in fourth.
"It's the first time that I've driven the car since my Macau accident last year," said Barth. "To be honest, I don't really know where we are [in terms of competitive order]. I put on another set of tyres at the end, but they weren't brand new. Following Coronel, it seemed that it was not so much in the corners where he was pulling away but on the straight. It's the position we were in last year with our turbo diesel, but that's life."
Barth's Sunred team-mate Gabriele Tarquini, ended the afternoon test in fifth. The Italian did not participate in the 90-minute morning shakedown. "We wanted to conserve the engine as it has to do three races," explained Tarquini. The sister Lukoil-liveried car of Aleksei Dudukalo was too badly damaged from an accident at Esse de Alta in the shakedown to return to the track this afternoon.
Three-time Brazilian Stock Car champion Carlos 'Caca' Bueno ended the day sixth in his second guest appearance for Chevrolet, following his WTCC debut at Brands Hatch last year. The WTCC machines are in the region of five seconds slower than the bespoke silhouette Brazilian Stock Cars with which they are sharing the bill at Curitiba this weekend.
Kristian Poulsen caused a red flag by spinning into the gravel at Esse da Alta, but rejoined the test to set the seventh fastest time ahead of team-mate Franz Engstler.
Volvo appears to be playing down expectations on its full-time return to the WTCC. Robert Dahlgren's S2000-engined C30 is sporting '2011 Evaluation Year' in large signage across the bodywork; the Swede ended the afternoon in ninth.
Alain Menu was an unfamiliar 12th in the fourth Chevrolet entry. "I am not worried," said the experienced Swiss. "I was experimenting with many things, including race set-ups, and unlike some others I didn't use any new tyres."
Former GP2 race-winner Javier Villa endured a tough WTCC debut. The Spanish Mini champion was sidelined throughout the day with steering pump problems, compounding his total lack of pre-season testing.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 1m23.090s 2. Rob Huff Chevrolet 1m23.713s + 0.623s 3. Yvan Muller Chevrolet 1m23.796s + 0.706s 4. Fredy Barth SUNRED SEAT 1m23.864s + 0.774s 5. Gabriele Tarquini SUNRED SEAT 1m24.003s + 0.913s 6. Carlos Bueno Chevrolet 1m24.338s + 1.248s 7. Kristian Poulsen Engstler BMW 1m24.369s + 1.279s 8. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 1m24.373s + 1.283s 9. Robert Dahlgren Polestar Volvo 1m24.379s + 1.289s 10. Tiago Monteiro SUNRED SEAT 1m24.474s + 1.384s 11. Michel Nykjaer SUNRED SEAT 1m24.678s + 1.588s 12. Alain Menu Chevrolet 1m24.691s + 1.601s 13. Pepe Oriola SUNRED SEAT 1m24.881s + 1.791s 14. Darryl O'Young bamboo Chevrolet 1m25.230s + 2.140s 15. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 1m25.503s + 2.413s 16. Marchy Lee KK BMW 1m25.562s + 2.472s 17. Yukinori Taniguchi bamboo Chevrolet 1m26.745s + 3.655s 18. Fabio Fabiani Proteam BMW 1m31.591s + 8.501s
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