Photo: Citroën Racing

José María López quickest in first Slovakiaring test

Citroën Total WTCC’s José María López was fastest of all in the first test session at the Slovakiaring, almost a second faster than his closest rival, the Honda of Tiago Monteiro, with the independent Honda of Mehdi Bennani third fastest at the end of the 30 minute session.

López set the quickest of all of the drivers laps on only his first run, annihilating the qualifying lap record set at the track last year by Gabriele Tarquini of 2:10.308, with a time of 2:06.546. Citroën team-mate Yvan Muller was initially second fastest with Sébastien Loeb third, but the Citroëns wouldn’t hold on the top three for long.

After ten minutes, Gabriele Tarquini broke the Citroën stronghold, going third fastest in his Honda Civic around the 5.9km circuit, before Yvan Muller took over at the top of the time sheets with a time of 2:06.252. Tarquini improved to go second, just under a tenth down and it looked like it was a close fight between the two marques, before López pulled a time of 2:05.252 out of the bag to go fastest of all, the only driver in the 2:05s and would remain unchallenged for the rest of the session.

The other Hondas of Mehdi Bennani and Tiago Monteiro both found more time and improved to the low 2:06s, with Monteiro ending the session second fastest ahead of the Moroccan in the independent Proteam Racing-run Civic.

Yvan Muller ended the session fourth in his Citroën C-Elysée with Gabriele Tarquini fifth.

Frenchman Hugo Valente wound up as fastest of the six Chevrolet drivers, setting the sixth fastest time at the end of the session to move ahead of nine-time World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb, with the two ROAL Chevrolets of Toms Chilton and Coronel, and the Zengõ Motorsport Honda of Norbert Michelisz completing the top ten.

Just outside the top ten were three more Chevrolets, with Dusan Borkovic leading René Münnich and last week’s race winner Gianni Morbidelli.

Struggling in the session was the LADA Sport Lukoil team, with Rob Huff the fastest of the three drivers, 2.8 seconds down in 14th position ahead of James Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy.

In the TC2T class, Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Franz Engstler was fastest in his BMW 320 TC, just ahead of Petr Fulín who only set six laps in his Campos Racing SEAT León after joining the session late.

All 20 cars registered for this weekend took part, with a late withdrawal from the NIKA Racing team, which were to be running a Honda Civic in TC2T again for Japanese driver Yukinori Taniguchi.

The next session is the first free practice session at 9:00 CET tomorrow.