Vila Real WTCC: Jose Maria Lopez leads test session for Citroen

Reigning World Touring Car champion Jose Maria Lopez went fastest of all for Citroen on his last lap in the opening test session in Vila Real

Vila Real WTCC: Jose Maria Lopez leads test session for Citroen

Lopez edged out Honda privateer Norbert Michelisz by 0.814 seconds. He stopped the clock at 2m01.455s, and it is expected that track evolution will enable drivers to go below the two-minute mark on new tyres.

Citroen's simulator had clearly seen much use, since the C-Elysee drivers were fastest by a margin of several seconds in the early laps of the intimidating street circuit, in which the majority of the corners have a blind and/or fast entry.

After a late start the session was red-flagged for nearly 30 minutes while circuit officials installed an additional tyre stack at the Turn 19 chicane.

Under green-flag conditions times tumbled rapidly as the circuit rubbered in, even though the majority of the drivers were running on old tyres.

Sebastien Loeb had been fastest before the red flag but he was soon undercut by Michelisz, then by semi-works Citroen runner Mehdi Bennani.

In the final minutes the championship protagonists improved their times as Michelisz, Yvan Muller and Loeb bumped Bennani downwards, then Lopez administered the coup de grace as the chequered flag flew.

After a slow start the factory Honda Civics established themselves in the second half of the top 10, along with the leading RML Chevrolet of Hugo Valente and the Nika Honda of Argentine Super TC2000 champion Nestor Girolami.

Works Citroen driver Ma Qing Hua closed out the top 10, just over 3.5s off Lopez.

The Lada Vestas of Jaap van Lagen, Rob Huff and Nicky Catsburg were separated by a half-second margin in 12th, 13th and 14th place. AUTOSPORT understands that the Vesta does not have enough steering lock for some of the tighter corners.

The less experienced drivers showed due caution, and John Filippi and Gregoire Demoustier - who is being coached by British Touring Car and WTCC veteran Alain Menu this weekend - propped up the timesheets, seven and nine seconds off the frontrunning pace.

FRIDAY TIMES:

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap Laps
1 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 2m01.455s - 11
2 Norbert Michelisz Zengo Motorsport Honda 2m02.269s 0.814s 12
3 Yvan Muller Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 2m02.819s 1.364s 12
4 Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 2m02.920s 1.465s 11
5 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 2m03.371s 1.916s 12
6 Gabriele Tarquini Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 2m03.639s 2.184s 12
7 Hugo Valente Campos Racing Chevrolet 2m03.899s 2.444s 12
8 Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 2m04.205s 2.750s 13
9 Nestor Girolami Honda Racing team Sweden Honda 2m04.851s 3.396s 12
10 Ma Qinghua Citroen Total WTCC Citroen 2m04.892s 3.437s 12
11 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 2m05.358s 3.903s 12
12 Jaap van Lagen LADA Sport Rosneft Lada 2m05.931s 4.476s 10
13 Rob Huff LADA Sport Rosneft Lada 2m06.202s 4.747s 12
14 Nicky Catsburg LADA Sport Rosneft Lada 2m06.423s 4.968s 11
15 Stefano D'Aste All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 2m06.538s 5.083s 11
16 Tom Chilton ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 2m06.945s 5.490s 11
17 John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet 2m08.620s 7.165s 10
18 Gregoire Demoustier Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet 2m10.498s 9.043s 10


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