Photo: Citroën Racing

José Maríá López on top in red flagged test session in Austria

Citroën Total WTCC’s José Maríá López was fastest in the first 30 minute test session at the Salzburgring ahead of the Chevrolet of Hugo Valente and the Honda of Mehdi Bennani, in a session which was stopped three minutes early when both Tom Coronel and Gabriele Tarquini suffered technical issues and stopped on track.

Citroën’s Yvan Muller had set the early pace, with his time of 1:23.281 enough to hold the top spot for half the session, before the Proteam Racing run Honda of Mehdi Bennani briefly jumped to the top of the time sheets before championship leader López took over. López’s time was a 1:23.101, with the new TC1 cars almost three seconds faster already around the 4.2km Salzburgring circuit than the previous generation of Super 2000 cars.

Throughout the rest of the top ten, positions kept changing, with Hondas and Chevrolets all showing good pace. The only marque notably struggling was Lada, with all three of their cars the slowest of the TC1 category, with Rob Huff the quickest in 14th, almost two seconds slower than the class leading Citroën of ‘Pechito’ López.

At the end of the session, Tom Coronel’s ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet slowed with a front-left puncture as he began his flying lap, crawling down the escape road and around the circuit. Shortly afterwards, Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini also slowed, with the Italian pulling up behind the Dutchman at the same point on the back straight and stopping their cars, with Tarquini opening up the bonnet as a plume of smoke emerged, which was later confirmed as a power steering issue.

With three minutes to go, the session was red flagged, leaving López the fastest on his first run at the Austrian circuit.

The next session is Free Practice 1, which gets underway at 9:00 CET tomorrow.