José María López tops red flagged Free Practice 1

José María López led the way in Buriram, Thailand, in the first free practice session. The Argentinian improved just in time, a handful of seconds before the session was interrupted after Lada Sport Rosneft’s Nicolas Lapierre crashed out.

Mehdi Bennani, who led most of the session, came second, with Citroën’s Sébastien Loeb completing a 1-2-3 for the French manufacturer.

López jumped up in the lead early in the session, before Bennani clocked a very good lap time, which stood as the best until the Argentinian beat him by three tenths. Testing pace-setter Norbert Michelisz came fourth, despite looking competitive for a top three result, ahead of fellow Honda driver Gabriele Tarquini, with Nicky Catsburg sixth for Lada Sport Rosneft.

Tiago Monteiro came home seventh for Honda ahead of Hugo Valente’s Campos Racing Chevrolet, with Ma Qing Hua and Rob Huff completing the top ten. Championship contender Yvan Muller finished just outside the top ten in eleventh, but the Frenchman was not able to complete a good lap before the session was interrupted. Stefano D’Aste finished a good 12th outright, despite being handed a black and white flag due to track limits.

A number of drivers including local hero Tin Sritrai as well as Gregoire Demoustier were awarded the same penalty, whereas Lapierre had a lap disallowed for the same reason.

Action resumes at 17.00 local time with Free Practice 2.