Photo: Citroën Racing

José María López on top in first test session in Qatar

Citroën Racing’s José María López topped the time sheets in the first 30 minute testing session at the Losail circuit in Qatar, leading the way ahead of the Zengő Honda of Norbert Michelisz, with Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën driver Mehdi Bennani third.

With the factory Citroëns occupying the top spots throughout most of the session, there was a flurry of improvements in the last few minutes. First Sébastien Loeb displaced Citroën team-mate Ma Qing Hua for the fastest time, before his own team’s driver Mehdi Bennani went quicker in the privateer Citroën C-Elysée WTCC.

López then took over, setting a time of 2:03.316 to set the benchmark for this evening’s free practice sessions, which will take place under the floodlights.

Zengő Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz put in a late flyer after the chequered flag to go second fastest in the Honda Civic, just ahead of his independents’ championship rival Mehdi Bennani.

Hugo Valente was the best placed of the Chevrolet drivers, with the Frenchman setting the fourth fastest time overall, with the next closest Chevrolet his Campos Racing team-mate John Filippi in ninth.

Of the Lada drivers, Nicolas Lapierre was the fastest, eighth overall in the Vesta, while Rob Huff had limited running in the session with an oil leak in his Lada’s gearbox, and ended up 17th of the 18 runners.

Tiago Monteiro in the factory Honda went off with a turbo issue at Turn 6 after just five minutes, causing a 15 minute red flag delay and would end the session without having set a time.

Nasser Al-Attiyah, making his WTCC debut in the QMMF backed third Campos Chevrolet was 16th fastest, just under four seconds off of López’s pace.

Free Practice 1 is up next at 19:00 local time (AST).