TARQUINI TOPS TESTING TIMES
SEAT Sport driver and Championship contender Gabriele Tarquini set the fastest lap in the test session on Imola's newly refurbished track this afternoon.
Following this morning's rain there were wet patches on the track, but this didn't stop the Italian setting a time nearly three seconds faster than the previous lap record. The record was easily smashed after the Variante Bassa was replaced by a right-handed bend, making it much faster. Tarquini's time of 1:55.564 was one tenth faster than his nearest rival, BMW Team Germany's Augusto Farfus.
Chevrolet's Alain Menu took third position, with the other BMW Team Germany car of Jorg Muller behind him in fourth. The next SEAT Sport car was in fifth with Yvan Muller at the wheel, ahead of Alessandro Zanardi and Andy Priaulx. Rickard Rydell rounded of the top eight positions for the first of the sessions on this new track. The eight fastest drivers were covered by only six tenths of a second.
Stefano D'Aste set the fastest time for the Independents' Trophy with a time of 1:56.871, and he was a comfortable thirteenth overall. He did set the time early on in the session when several of the Independent cars set times ahead of their rivals; however, D'Aste had engine problems towards the end of the session.
One driver who appears to have struggled was Robert Huff in the Chevrolet, who did so well in Germany. He could only manage seventeenth overall with a time nearly two seconds off the pace. Jordi Gene also had problems, his engine began to smoke very early on, forcing him to abandon the car on the side of the track. The possible reason is a turbocharger failure.
Newcomer Russian Bears driver Kirill Ladygin had electronics problems which resulted in his LADA going back to the pits. His team-mate Jaap van Lagen did not leave the garage at all due to an oil leak.
Only three cars had incidents during the session: Jorg Muller brushed the tyres at the apex of Turn 15, Sergio Hernandez came off but rejoined at turn 20 at the beginning of the test, and Felix Porteiro did the same at turn 2 in the final minutes.
WTCC competitors will hit the track again tomorrow for two practice sessions (at 9.00 and 12.30) and the qualifying (at 15.00).