Photo: Citroën Racing

José María López leads Citroën quartet in Saturday’s first practice

FIA World Touring Car Championship points leader José María López led Free Practice 1 on Saturday at the Marrakech street circuit, leading his Citroën team-mate Sébastien Loeb in the thirty minute session which saw six different drivers on the top of the time sheet.

The session was delayed by ten minutes due to technical problems with the track-side timing and video feeds, so eventually got underway at 8:25 local time in cooler conditions than yesterday’s test session.

López set the first benchmark in his Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, before ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton took over in the upgraded Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1.

Sébastien Loeb then put his Citroën on top, before he was briefly deposed by López, until the Argentinian’s lap time was deleted by the officials after he was judged to have cut the track at Turn 13, with the two Ladas of James Thompson and Rob Huff, as well as Honda driver Gabriele Tarquini also all given final warnings for exceeding the track limits later in the session.

Gabriele Tarquini briefly held the top spot in his Honda Civic WTCC, before Rob Huff found some time in the Lada Vesta to go P1 just after ten minutes of the session were complete.

The Citroën of Yvan Muller moved ahead of Huff and Tarquini just before the half-way point of the session, and that was the last time P1 didn’t belong to a Citroën, with López, Loeb and the independently run car of Mehdi Bennani all posting improvements to end the session in the top four positions, with López posting the session’s best time of 1:44.057 just over ten minutes from the chequered flag.

Gabriele Tarquini therefore ended the session as the closest threat to the French marque, with fifth in his Honda, just over half a second off the pace, and preventing Citroën from locking out the top five spots with its fifth driver Ma Qing Hua in sixth position.

Tom Chilton was the fastest of the Chevrolet drivers in seventh, with the two Hondas of Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz eighth and ninth with Lada’s Rob Huff completing the top ten.

Free Practice 2 is scheduled to get underway at 10:15 local time, just over an hour after the first session ended.