José María López leads Citroën 1-2-3 in Suzuka testing

José María López was the only driver to lap below the 2’07 barrier in the first testing session at Suzuka, Japan. The championship leader took the lead away from Citroën team-mate Sébastien Loeb just under the flag, with Yvan Muller in third to complete a 1-2-3 for the French manufacturer.

The session saw a few minor offs for Honda’s Norbert Michelisz and Yokohama Trophy winner Franz Engstler, but more importantly Campos Racing’s new signing Henry Kwong left slippery material across the track midway through the session, forcing the race director to issue a red flag.

Up until then José María López had led the session, but a very good lap put in by Loeb rose the bar by more than one second. In the dying moments of the session, however, the Argentinian was able to improve on the Frenchman by almost eight tenths.

Honda’s Tiago Monteiro had managed to overtake Yvan Muller for third, but with the flag already out the Frenchman was able to grab the third spot back, relegating the Portuguese driver back to fourth. Behind them was the leading Chevrolet of Hugo Valente, with ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton just behind.

Gabriele Tarquini, who suffered from problems earlier in the session, managed a seventh ahead of Campos Racing’s Dusan Borkovic. A good session for Lada saw the red cars improve steadily, leaving Rob Huff in ninth just ahead of team-mate James Thompson. Russian driver Mikhail Kozlovskiy was less fortunate, as engine temperatures problems prevented him from completing the session.

Shanghai Race 2 winner Mehdi Bennani was forced to stay in the pit lane for most of the session. Honda stablemate Norbert Michelisz also suffered from problems, and only managed a 13th place behind Tom Coronel.

Next up for the WTCC is Free Practice 1 at 9.20, local time.