Photo: WTCC Media

Rob Huff dominates Friday test session in Slovakia

Rob Huff led the way in the 30-minute testing session at the Slovakiaring in the Lada Sport Rosneft Vesta, finishing almost half a second ahead of his closest competitor, Citroën Racing’s Ma Qing Hua.

The 2012 champion knocked former team-mate Yvan Muller from the top of the time sheets halfway through the session with a time of 2:04.100, going faster still with just under two minutes to go to keep the Russian manufacturer on top come the chequered flag.

Ma Qing Hua then put in the fastest time of all the Citroën runners to go second fastest, just three-tenths of a second behind Huff, but the British driver found more time in his unballasted Lada Vesta WTCC to break the 2:05 barrier with a time of 2:04.967, and ended the session comfortably fastest, 0.433 ahead of Ma.

Gabriele Tarquini was the fastest of the Honda drivers, with the Italian improving to go third fastest just behind Ma’s Citroën, despite the Honda now carrying the same amount of ballast of 60kg on his Honda for the first time since Marrakech in April. However, a last minute improvement from Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente saw the Frenchman depose Tarquini for third, and also ensure all four manufacturers finished in the top four positions in the results.

Valente was therefore also the fastest of the independent drivers, while Citroën’s Yvan Muller finished fifth behind Tarquini, with Tiago Monteiro sixth fastest in the second quickest of the Honda Civics.

Championship leader José María López was just tenth fastest in his Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, 1.5 seconds off of Rob Huff’s pace, setting the same time to the thousandth of a second as Huff’s team-mate Jaap van Lagen. López’s fellow Argentinian Néstor Girolami finished 12th fastest in his first official outing in a TC1 class touring car with the Nika Racing Honda, a further two-tenths behind.

Also making his first WTCC appearance was Mat’o Homola, the Slovakian driver running in Campos Racing’s third Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1. Some minor technical issues hampered the amount of running he had in the session, and he finished 18th of the 19 runners, 4.8 seconds off of the ultimate pace.

WTCC’s next session is Free Practice 1, which takes place at 9:35 CET on Saturday morning.