Goldenport WTCC: Ma Qing Hua leads practice for Citroen

Chinese racer Ma Qing Hua exploited his home advantage to record the fastest time in World Touring Car Championship free practice at Beijing's Goldenport circuit on Saturday

Goldenport WTCC: Ma Qing Hua leads practice for Citroen

Moscow winner Ma, returning to the WTCC for the first time since the Spa round in June, set a quickest time of 1m06.127s in an FP2 session red-flagged two minutes prematurely owing to fading light.

Honda's Tiago Monteiro topped the opening free practice session, and briefly held the fastest time at the conclusion of FP2 before being stripped of the lap for a red-flag infringement.

The factory JAS driver was testing in Hungary and Slovakia in September, but Monteiro believes damp track conditions during practice at Goldenport made it difficult to gauge the effectiveness of Honda's latest developments, which include an engine upgrade and 'joker' played for chassis homologation.

"For sure the upgrades haven't hurt us, but it is hard to judge if we have made a step forward, or by how much, because it was really slippery out there," said Monteiro.

"Traction was difficult, although perhaps I wasn't suffering as much as some other people."

The low-grip surface and absence of fast corners were favourable for the Lada Granta, now running without long-time sponsor Lukoil branding on the cars as a consequence of the team's 2015 partnership with rival oil company Rosneft.

Lada's Rob Huff ended the afternoon in second position, after team-mate James Thompson lost a provisional second when he too was judged to have infringed the red flags.

"Even if it dries out tomorrow, I think the circuit will be good for us," commented Huff. "There are a few corners below the level of the lake here, and apparently whenever it rains a lot you get an overflow, so perhaps that part of the circuit will never really rubber in this weekend."

The morning session was disappointing for the Chevrolet runners, who reported traction problems, but Hungaroring victor Gianni Morbidelli took an encouraging third in FP2, edging out reigning WTCC champion Yvan Muller by 0.032s.

The outcome of the Goldenport weekend is critical for outside title contender Muller, who trails championship leader and Citroen team-mate Jose Maria Lopez by 60 points.

Lopez was the early pacesetter in FP2, but slipped down the order behind team-mate Sebastien Loeb.

In the morning session Argentinean Lopez was Monteiro's closest challenger, ending FP1 0.170s behind the Honda man's fastest time of 1m06.621s.

The damp track contributed to Lopez becoming beached in the gravel at Turn 13 when attempting to topple Monteiro's P1 spot, and the session was abandoned with 16 seconds left on the clocks.

Tom Coronel was later similarly caught out in practice two, and the red flags were required to facilitate the recovery of the ROAL Chevy.

The Beijing track replaced a provisional date in Sonoma on the World Touring Car Championship calendar, as there was a shipping cancellation in the United States.

A customs strike in Argentina, which hosted the preceding WTCC round in August, has caused this weekend's meeting to be compressed into two days.

The boat carrying the WTCC containers was delayed and only arrived in China last Sunday.

PRACTICE ONE:

Pos Class Driver Team Car Time Gap
1 TC1 Tiago Monteiro Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda 1m06.621s -
2 TC1 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m06.791s 0.170s
3 TC1 Ma Qinghua Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m06.937s 0.316s
4 TC1 Norbert Michelisz Zengo Motorsport Honda 1m07.005s 0.384s
5 TC1 Gabriele Tarquini Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda 1m07.229s 0.608s
6 TC1 Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m07.269s 0.648s
7 TC1 Mehdi Bennani Proteam Racing Honda 1m07.310s 0.689s
8 TC1 James Thompson LADA Sport Lukoil Lada 1m07.410s 0.789s
9 TC1 Mikhail Kozlovskiy LADA Sport Lukoil Lada 1m07.471s 0.850s
10 TC1 Yvan Muller Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m07.851s 1.230s
11 TC1 Gianni Morbidelli All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 1m07.867s 1.246s
12 TC1 Tom Chilton ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 1m07.958s 1.337s
13 TC1 Rob Huff LADA Sport Lukoil Lada 1m07.997s 1.376s
14 TC1 Hugo Valente Campos Racing Chevrolet 1m08.206s 1.585s
15 TC1 Dusan Borkovic NIS Petrol by Campos Racing Chevrolet 1m08.311s 1.690s
16 TC1 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 1m08.470s 1.849s
17 TC1 Rene Munnich All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 1m08.702s 2.081s
18 TC2 Franz Engstler Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 1m09.722s 3.101s
19 TC2 Michael Soong Campos Racing SEAT 1m11.368s 4.747s
20 TC2 John Filippi Campos Racing SEAT 1m11.954s 5.333s
21 TC2 Filipe Souza Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 1m13.018s 6.397s

PRACTICE TWO:

Pos Class Driver Team Car Time Gap
1 TC1 Ma Qinghua Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m06.127s -
2 TC1 Rob Huff LADA Sport Lukoil Lada 1m06.208s 0.081s
3 TC1 Gianni Morbidelli All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 1m06.231s 0.104s
4 TC1 Yvan Muller Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m06.263s 0.136s
5 TC1 Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m06.320s 0.193s
6 TC1 James Thompson LADA Sport Lukoil Lada 1m06.330s 0.203s
7 TC1 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 1m06.397s 0.270s
8 TC1 Tiago Monteiro Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda 1m06.404s 0.277s
9 TC1 Tom Chilton ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 1m06.656s 0.529s
10 TC1 Gabriele Tarquini Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda 1m06.765s 0.638s
11 TC1 Dusan Borkovic NIS Petrol by Campos Racing Chevrolet 1m06.769s 0.642s
12 TC1 Mikhail Kozlovskiy LADA Sport Lukoil Lada 1m06.929s 0.802s
13 TC1 Norbert Michelisz Zengo Motorsport Honda 1m07.155s 1.028s
14 TC1 Mehdi Bennani Proteam Racing Honda 1m07.505s 1.378s
15 TC1 Rene Munnich All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 1m08.113s 1.986s
16 TC1 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 1m08.838s 2.711s
17 TC2 Franz Engstler Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 1m09.488s 3.361s
18 TC2 Michael Soong Campos Racing SEAT 1m10.430s 4.303s
19 TC2 John Filippi Campos Racing SEAT 1m11.090s 4.963s
20 TC1 Hugo Valente Campos Racing Chevrolet 1m11.483s 5.356s
21 TC2 Filipe Souza Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 1m12.434s 6.307s


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