Photo: Citroen Racing

José Maríá López on top in red flagged final practice session

Citroën’s José María López completed a practice hat-trick in Morocco, finishing on top in the final practice session of the weekend for the second round of the WTCC at Marrakech, while the session was ended early after Lada Sport Rosneft’s Rob Huff crashed out at Turn 7 with just over a minute to go.

It was Gabriele Tarquini who set the first benchmark in the Honda Civic in the second free practice session, while Tom Coronel was the first to break into the 1:44s as the temperature continued to rise. López soon took over at the top however, setting a time of 1:43.759, just a few hundredths shy of his own lap record from last year.

The drivers were all much closer to the limit during the session, with a number of warnings handed out for drivers exceeding the track limits, including Lada driver Rob Huff and Honda’s Tiago Monteiro. Tom Coronel lost two of his quickest laps as they deemed over the limit, which saw the Dutch driver finish eighth in the final reckoning in the ROAL Chevrolet Cruze, just one spot behind his team-mate Tom Chilton.

With just over ten minutes to go, four-time champion Yvan Muller was the first to dip under last year’s lap record with a time of 1:43.701. This was followed in short order by his team-mate Sébastien Loeb who went faster still with a time of 1:43.642. López then was able to produce a time of 1:43.540, taking over the top position but before anyone else could improve the session was red flagged.

The stoppage came about after Lada’s Rob Huff slid off at Turn 7 and hit the tyre barriers on the exit of the corner. The British driver reversed the Vesta out and was able to drive the car back with remarkably little damage considering the speed of the impact, though the bonnet had been knocked loose and fell off the car as he brought it back to the pit lane.

The 2012 champion commented afterwards that he believes that oil that had been left down on the racing line through Turn 6, though he wasn’t sure if that oil was from his own car or someone else’s.

López therefore led another Citroën 1-2-3-4 with team-mates Loeb, Muller and Ma Qing Hua behind him heading into qualifying which begins at 12:30 local time.

Tiago Monteiro was the best placed non-Citroën in fifth for Honda, with local driver Mehdi Bennani the fastest of the independents in the Sébastien Loeb Racing-run Citroën C-Elysée WTCC in sixth, with the top nine cars all within a second.