Reigning World Touring Car champion Jose Maria Lopez laid down a marker for his rivals by setting the pace in first practice for the 2015 season opener in Argentina.
Citroen’s factory drivers operated a revolving door policy at the top of the time sheets as first Sebastien Loeb, then Ma Qing Hua, then finally Lopez staked their claim to the top spot. Lopez’s quickest time of 1m48.028s around the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, set mid-session, stood until the checkered flag.
Overnight rain had once again left wet patches on the circuit, many of which did not dry out in spite of warmer and sunnier conditions this morning. Nevertheless, within three laps the leading runners had shaved 5s off their times from Friday’s test.
Mehdi Bennani, in the semi-works Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen C-Elysee, briefly went second fastest with a late charge of 1m48.719s, only to be displaced by Tiago Monteiro in the fastest of the works Hondas, who clocked 1m48.493s — 0.465 seconds off Lopez’s benchmark — with his final flying lap.
Loeb closed the session fourth quickest ahead of Yvan Muller, who took to the track later than his teammates and set his best time of 1m48.988s on his last lap.
Monteiro’s factory Honda teammate Gabriele Tarquini only began lapping in anger in the latter part of the session and was sixth fastest.
The new Lada Vesta continued to show promise as Rob Huff posted the seventh fastest time (1m49.441s), but team-mate James Thompson spent much of the session in the garage while a mechanical problem was investigated.
Tom Chilton was comfortably the fastest of the Chevrolet runners, with over four tenths of a second in hand over the next fastest Cruze driven by Hugo Valente.
Chilton’s ROAL teammate Tom Coronel suffered a front-left puncture that damaged his car’s bodywork and led to a red flag.
Dusan Borkovic was the quicker of the two private Hondas, ninth fastest overall and 0.085s ahead of Norbert Michelisz’s Zengo-run Civic.
|1||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||1m 48.028s||–|
|2||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda||1m 48.493s||0.465s|
|3||Mehdi Bennani||Sebastien Loeb Racing||Citroen||1m 48.719s||0.691s|
|4||Sebastien Loeb||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||1m 48.910s||0.882s|
|5||Yvan Muller||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||1m 48.988s||0.960s|
|6||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda||1m 49.432s||1.404s|
|7||Robert Huff||LADA Sport Rosneft||Lada||1m 49.441s||1.413s|
|8||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet||1m 49.831s||1.803s|
|9||Dusan Borkovic||Proteam Racing||Honda||1m 50.162s||2.134s|
|10||Norbert Michelisz||Zengo Motorsport||Honda||1m 50.247s||2.219s|
|11||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing||Chevrolet||1m 50.325s||2.297s|
|12||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet||1m 50.408s||2.380s|
|13||Ma Qing Hua||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||1m 50.434s||2.406s|
|14||John Filippi||Campos Racing||Chevrolet||1m 50.474s||2.446s|
|15||Rickard Rydell||Nika International||Honda||1m 50.710s||2.682s|
|16||Stefano D’Aste||All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport||Chevrolet||1m 50.792s||2.764s|
|17||James Thompson||LADA Sport Rosneft||Lada||1m 51.408s||3.380s|
|18||Gregoire Demoustier||Craft-Bamboo Racing||Chevrolet||1m 51.466s||3.438s|