Jaap van Lagen leads Lada 1-2 in wet Nürburgring practice

In wet and foggy conditions typical of the Eifel mountain region, Lada’s ‘ringer’ for the Nürburgring Nordschliefe, Jaap van Lagen, finished fastest of all, just over a second clear of team-mate Rob Huff, with Tom Chilton completing the top three in his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet Cruze.

Due to the conditions, the session was delayed by 15 minutes, leading to the shortening of the session from the scheduled 60 minutes to 45, due to foggy conditions greeted by the teams and drivers as they arrived for practice at 8:15 CET.

The conditions caught out a number of drivers but all managed to avoid major contact, with Citroën’s Ma Qing Hua experiencing a few visits to the gravel trap, as well as Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Grégoire Demoustier and Münnich Motorsport’s Stefano D’Aste.

It was Sébastien Loeb Racing driver Mehdi Bennani who was the only one to make notable contact with the barrier, but the sturdy Citroën C-Elysée was still able to circulate the track with minimal damage.

Norbert Michelisz set the first benchmark in the Zengő Motorsport Honda Civic, before José María López took over in the factory Citroën as the first driver under 11 minutes in the slippery conditions.

With 20 minutes to go, Jaap van Lagen then went fastest of all in the Lada Vesta as the conditions were slowly improving. The Ducth driver, making his WTCC return after six years set a time of 10:24.447, and was joined by team-mate Rob Huff in second position, before Tiago Monteiro briefly topped the time sheets in the Honda Civic.

Van Lagen then went faster still, with Huff also improving on his final run to make it a Lada 1-2 at the finish, with the Russian manufacturer just fielding two cars this weekend, with Tom Chilton setting the fastest time of the independent drivers with third overall.

“It’s an amazing start,” said van Lagen after qualifying. “It was indeed difficult with the weather conditions at the Nürburgring. I said to Rob it’ll be really hard, but I was already P2 on the first lap whch I was surprised at as I had so much wheel-spin. Then we made a little change on the car, and it was a really good change from my engineer, and I was P1 then P1.”

With López only setting one lap early in the session, the points leader finished outside of the top ten in 14th position, with Nordschleife expert Sabine Schmitz just missing the top ten with the 11th fastest time in her Chevrolet RML Cruze.

The final practice session is due to take place at 11:55 CET and is schedule to be one hour long.