Pepe Oriola sets the pace in first WTCC practice in Slovakia

Tuenti Racing's Pepe Oriola set the pace in free practice one at the World Touring Car Championship's maiden visit to Slovakia

Pepe Oriola sets the pace in first WTCC practice in Slovakia

The Spanish racer set his time at the Hans Roth-designed Slovakia Ring early in the half-hour session, before running off the road in a late effort to improve his benchmark.

The 17-year-old has claimed an Independent's victory in each round this season, and was again on form to hustle his Sunred-prepared Leon to a time of 2m14.434s.

Lukoil Racing's Gabriele Tarquini finished 0.198s adrift of Oriola in his similar Leon WTCC. The Italian held fourth during much of the session, but eclipsed James Nash's Arena Ford Focus for the runner-up position two minutes prior to the chequered flag.

Marrakech reversed-grid pole-sitter Nash, who is running without 30kg of penalty ballast for the first time this season due to changes to the car's suspension, secured third. The Milton-Keynes racer's Arena team-mate Tom Chilton sat out the session with fuel pressure sensor difficulties.

Chilton has a single session of practice available before qualifying this afternoon, as no testing took place at the Slovakia Ring on Friday. The Reigate driver can call on circuit knowledge from his brother Max, who has tested extensively at the venue as part of his GP2 preparations.

Rob Huff was the highest placed of this season's dominant RML factory Chevrolet drivers in fourth, some 0.820s behind Oriola. Team-mates Alain Menu and championship leader Yvan Muller followed in fifth and seventh respectively. More is expected of the Chevrolet men in free practice two.

The top-six was completed by Tarquini's Lukoil Racing team-mate Aleksei Dudukalo. The Russian is aiming to recover ground after a torrid preceding meeting in Marrakech.

The session was red-flagged after 12 minutes when former Formula 1 driver Tiago Monteiro stopped out on track. His Tuenti Leon was recovered to the pits and later rejoined the action.

Hungarian rookie Gabor Weber suffered an early incident to find the gravel in his Zengo Motorsport BMW.

Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 2m13.434s 2. Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT 2m13.632s + 0.198s 3. James Nash Arena Ford 2m13.863s + 0.429s 4. Robert Huff Chevrolet 2m14.254s + 0.820s 5. Alain Menu Chevrolet 2m14.671s + 1.237s 6. Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT 2m14.699s + 1.265s 7. Yvan Muller Chevrolet 2m14.916s + 1.482s 8. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 2m15.143s + 1.709s 9. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 2m15.401s + 1.967s 10. Tiago Monteiro Tuenti SEAT 2m15.404s + 1.970s 11. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 2m15.603s + 2.169s 12. Darryl O'Young Special Tuning SEAT 2m15.855s + 2.421s 13. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 2m15.915s + 2.481s 14. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 2m15.918s + 2.484s 15. Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW 2m16.357s + 2.923s 16. Pasquale di Sabatino bamboo Chevrolet 2m16.530s + 3.096s 17. Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW 2m16.617s + 3.183s 18. Alex MacDowall bamboo Chevrolet 2m17.310s + 3.876s 19. Charles Ng Engstler BMW 2m19.041s + 5.607s 20. Gabor Weber Zengo BMW 7m15.347s + 5m01.913s 21. Tom Chilton Arena Ford 
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Series WTCC
Author Peter Mills
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