The 2012 WTCC season got under way yesterday, with five one-hour test sessions and the Chevrolet team made very clear from the start that the Cruze is still the car to beat.
Yvan Muller, Rob Huff and Alain Menu topped the time lists in all the sessions they took part in.
The reigning champion set the day's best lap of 1:58.022 in the last test, Huff second fastest (1:58.035) and Menu third (1:58.406). Alex MacDowall was an impressive fourth (1:58.415) in the bamboo-engineering car, completing a Chevrolet quartet ahead of the pack and topping the Yokohama Trophy.
Gabriele Tarquini emerged as the best of the rest, with the fifth fastest lap of 1:58.643 in his Lukoil Racing SEAT León; the Italian was just a bit faster that Rickard Rydell's Swedish Chevrolet (1:58.916).
BMW drivers Tom Coronel (1:59.107) and Franz Engstler (1:59.936) were also able to break the two-minute wall.
Which has not yet been smashed by the Ford Focus cars, although Tom Chilton improved to 2:00.361, one and half second faster than he had been in the morning.
WTCC drivers will hit the track again tomorrow morning.
Portuguese switch: from Estoril to Algarve
The WTCC Race of Portugal will take place at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve and not at the Estoril as it was originally planned. The switch, motivated by logistics reasons, was approved today by the World Motor Sport Council. The date of the event remains the same, June 3.
The circuit close to Portimão had already hosted a WTCC event back in 2010, when local hero Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini won one race apiece for SEAT.
"I am very pleased to go back there," said championship promoter Marcello Lotti. "The track layout suits very well touring car competitions and in 2010 we had two exciting races. And a very good crowd as well."
The circuit CEO Paulo Pinheiro echoed: "We are delighted to host the WTCC once again. This is the coronation of a three-year work that we have done to develop the track and its facilities. The WTCC event in 2010 was a major success and we are sure that this year's race meeting will be even better, thanks to the manufacturers' participation and the fact that Tiago Monteiro is one of the top drivers in the championship."