Photo: Honda Racing Team JAS

Gabriele Tarquini leads Honda 1-2-3 in Friday test in Hungary

Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team’s Gabriele Tarquini was fastest of all in the first 30 minute test session at the Hungaroring, leading Proteam’s Mehdi Bennani and works Honda team-mate Tiago Monteiro, with points leader José María López the fastest of the Citroën drivers in sixth.

López had gone out and set the first benchmark in the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, decimating the lap record of the previous class of car with a time of 1:51.868. The previous qualifying lap record was 1:53.426, set by Yvan Muller last year in the RML Chevrolet Cruze (TC2T).

Half way through the session, it was Proteam’s Mehdi Bennani who took over at the top of the time sheets. The Morrocan set a time of 1:51.064, almost eight-tenths of a second faster in the Civic WTCC, which is now running at the minimum weight of 1,100kg from this weekend.

With just a few minutes to go, the factory Honda of Gabriele Tarquini became the only driver to break into the 1:50s, although only just. The Italian set a time of 1:50.995, and remained fastest as the session came to an end.

Bennani finished the session in second, with Tiago Monteiro improving late in the session to go third, ensuring Hondas held the top three positions, with local driver Norbert Michelisz just behind in fifth, separated from the other three Japanese cars by ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton in his Chevrolet Cruze.

Championship leader José María López finished the session sixth fastest ahead of Hugo Valente’s Campos Chevrolet, with the two maximum ballasted Citroëns of Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb eighth and ninth.

LADA Sport Lukoil’s Rob Huff completed the top ten in the Granta Sport, with team-mates James Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy 14th and 16th.

ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel set nine laps in his newly repaired Chevrolet Cruze and was 13th fastest, 2.1 seconds off the pace in what was effectively a shakedown session for the car.

In TC2T, Franz Engstler was fastest in the BMW 320 TC, 5.7 seconds down on the outright pace of the TC1-class Honda of Gabriele Tarquini. Engstler’s team-mate Pasquale Di Sabatino was 1.5 seconds behind him, with the NIKA Racing Honda Civic of Yukinori Taniguchi third in class, 4.6 seconds slower than Engstler and just over ten seconds off the overall pace, with John Filippi not taking part in the session due to a last minute problem with his Campos-run SEAT León.

The next session is Free Practice 1, which starts at 09:00 CET on Saturday.