Citroen's Jose Maria Lopez was fastest in the first free practice at the Slovakiaring on Saturday, the reigning WTCC champion holding the top spot comfortably throughout.
The bulk of the drivers’ best times coming on their first flying lap at the start of the session, with the abrasive circuit and common use of worn tyres to focus on race set-up in the session meaning few improvements followed.
Lopez's first flying lap of 2m05.201s therefore left him seven tenths of a second clear of Lada’s Rob Huff, with Ma Qing Hua finishing third in the second best of the Citroens.
Jaap van Lagen's Lada was one of the few to improve late in the session and set the fourth fastest time, just under a second off of Lopez’s pace.
Gabriele Tarquini was the best placed of the Hondas in fifth, leading the independent Zengo Motorsport Honda of Norbert Michelisz, Yvan Muller's Citroen and Tiago Monteiro's Honda.
In a relatively incident-free session, Tom Coronel had a minor off in his Chevrolet Cruze at Turn 3, bringing gravel back on to the circuit and having to pit to have his radiator grill cleared, while his ROAL Motorsport teammate Tom Chilton went off at Turn 1 and buried his Chevrolet in the gravel.
Despite this, Chilton was still the fastest of the struggling Chevrolet contingent in ninth, while also out of position was last year’s sole race winner Sebastien Loeb in 14th position for Citroen.
WTCC debutant Nestor Girolami made steady progress in his Nika International Honda Civic, and was in the top 10, 1.3 seconds from the overall pace set by fellow Argentinian driver Lopez.
|1||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroen||2'05.201|
|3||Ma Qing Hua||Citroen||2'06.139||0.938|
|4||Jaap van Lagen||Lada||2'06.189||0.988|
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes