Photo: Citroën Racing

José María López leads Sébastien Loeb in delayed practice

Citroën Total WTCC were first and second fastest in the 30 minute practice session on Saturday morning at the Termas de Río Hondo circuit in Argentina, in a session which started 45 minutes behind schedule.

The cause of the delay was because there was no track activity permitted until the pilot of the medical helicopter could arrive, as he was delayed in getting to the circuit.

When the session finally commenced at 9:30 local time, the Citroëns wasted no time in stamping their authority, with Yvan Muller briefly holding the top spot with a time of 1:45.505, before José María López went quicker with a time of 1:45.051. The times continued to tumble, but P1 was always held by a Citroën driver, with Sébastien Loeb breaking into the 1:45s to go fastest just before ten minutes were up, and then with López producing a time in the high 1:43s just over half was through the session.

The Argentinian would improve his time again by less than a tenth in the final minutes to end up with a time of 1:43.889, with Loeb his closest rival with a time of 1:44.149.

The three factory Citroëns were separated due to a late improvement from Proteam Racing’s Mehdi Bennani, with the Honda cars seemingly the closest rivals to Citroën this weekend, perhaps thanks in part to the increase compensation weight by 20kg for the Chevrolet RML Cruzes.

Bennani was just under four-tenths down on López’s time in third, with reigning champion Yvan Muller fourth in his Citroën C-Elysée, 0.409 behind his team-mate.

Gabriele Tarquini was the fastest of the factory Hondas, leading the other two Civics of Norbert Michelisz and Tiago Monteiro.

Tom Chilton was the fastest of the Chevrolet contingent in eighth in his ROAL Motorsport-run car, 1.4 seconds off the pace of López, with the Campos Racing Chevrolet of Hugo Valente just 43-thousandths of a second behind.

Tenth place was a tie between LADA Sport Lukoil’s Rob Huff and the second Campos Chevrolet of Dusan Borkovic. Huff’s time was just 1.6 seconds down on the pace-setting Citroën, the closest the Lada Granta Sport has been to the French marque all year with the car seeminly favouring the Argentinian circuit. Huff’s team-mate James Thompson wound up 13th after spending the first half of the session in the pits.

In the TC2T class, Franz Engstler was fastest of all in his BMW 320 TC, 1.5 seconds clear of the Campos SEAT of John Filippi, with new team-mate Camilo Echevarría unable to set a timed lap during the session.

The next practice session was due to take place at 11:00 local time (16:00 CET), but it set to be delayed due to the hold up of Free Practice 1.