José María López on top in Termas de Río Hondo testing

Citroën’s José María López topped the time sheets in the 30 minute testing session for his home race at the Termas de Río Hondo circuit in Argentina, finishing just 16 thousandths of a second ahead of team-mate and title rival Yvan Muller.

The gap to third was also less than a tenth of a second, in this case, it was the Honda Civic of Gabriele Tarquini, running a new suspension upgrade which was tested at Valencia last week. The 2009 champion was just 0.089 behind López’s time of 1:44.254, which already eclipsed the qualifying record set in the previous generation of cars by over 3.5 seconds.

Sébastien Loeb was fourth fastest on his first run at the Argentinian circuit with the C-Elysée, having tested earlier in the year in a Turismo Nacional car.

Tiago Monteiro was fifth fastest for Honda, leading the top placed independent driver, the Honda Civic of Proteam Racing’s Mehdi Bennani.

Hugo Valente was the fastest of the Chevrolet RML Cruze drivers, setting the seventh fastest time just one place ahead of the Chevrolet of ROAL Motorsport driver Tom Chilton.

Rob Huff and James Thompson both broke into the top ten for LADA Sport Lukoil. The two British drivers were ninth and tenth fastest, just around two seconds off the pace of López in the session.

In the Yokohama Trophy class for TC2T drivers, Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Franz Engstler was quickest of all, setting the 16th fastest time, and was just under a tenth of a second ahead of his new Argentinian team-mate Camilo Echevarría, leaving Campos Racing’s John Filippi to bring up the rear of the class and the field in his SEAT León WTCC.

The next session is Free Practice 1, and gets underway at 8:45 ART tomorrow (13:45 CET).