Gabriele Tarquini again on top in Saturday first practice session

Honda World Touring Car Team’s Gabriele Tarquini was fastest for the second consecutive practice session at the Moscow Raceway, with the Italian just over a tenth of a second faster than championship leader José María López’s Citroën C-Elysée WTCC.

López set the first benchmark of 1:40.219 in the 30-minute session, which was soon beaten by Lada Sport Rosneft’s Rob Huff, with the British driver setting a time of 1:39.740 in his Vesta WTCC.

That time didn’t keep him at the top of the time sheets for long, as Tarquini found more pace on his second run to set what would end up being the best time of the session with a time of 1:39.036, while Huff was unable to improve on his second run after encountering traffic on the circuit when he was held up behind Norbert Michelisz’s Zengő Motorsport Honda.

During the middle part of the session, the Citroëns improved their times but never in the final sector, which left Tarquini at the top of the table come the chequered flag. López, Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb all moved up to positions two to four in their Citroëns, with the second factory Honda of Tiago Monteiro improving to fifth, leaving Rob Huff’s Lada sixth at the end of the session.

“The car likes this track, especially my car,” remarked Tarquini after practice. “It’s very good to drive here, (it was) the same last year. I don’t know if it’s me or the car. Top speed isn’t very important here. It’s very twisty, but it’s just the last part here there’s a very long straight.

“I know that everyone will improve for qualifying, but I’m still optimistic.”

Hugo Valente was the fastest of the Chevrolet drivers and the best placed of the Yokohama Independents’ Trophy competitors in seventh position, with ROAL Chevrolet’s Tom Chilton, Zengő Honda’s Norbert Michelisz and Citroën’s Ma Qing Hua rounding out the top ten.

Nika International finally made their return to the track after their truck cleared Russian customs last night, with Rickard Rydell getting his first laps in since Argentina in March in the Honda Civic WTCC, finishing the session 13th fastest, 1.6 seconds off of Tarquini’s pace.

Lada’s other two cars of Jaap van Lagen and Nicky Catsburg finished the session 11th and 17th respectively, 1.3 and 1.9 seconds from the ultimate pace.

Free Practice 2 gets underway at 11:00 local time.