FIA World Touring Car Championship drivers were impressed in their first outing on the AutódromoTermas de Río Hondo circuit in Santiago del Estero, Argentina.
Following the WTCC drivers’ first outing at the Termas de Río Hondo circuit, it was the Chevrolet Cruze of Yvan Muller that set the fastest lap time (1:49.878) in the half-hour Testing session.
Muller’s RML teammate Tom Chilton was second quickest (1:50.246), with the Castrol Honda Team’s Civic of Gabriele Tarquini third (1:50.349) and Rob Huff fourth in the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport SEAT León (1:50.430).
The top seven places were covered by a fraction over a second, with three Chevrolets, three Hondas and Huff’s solitary SEAT occupied those seven places. The best of the BMW drivers was Tom Coronel, who was tenth fastest (1:51.096) behind the LADA Granta of James Thompson (1:50.954) while the Argentine driver ‘Pechito’ López was an impressive eleventh quickest (1:51.131) in the Wiechers-Sport BMW 320 TC.
Saturday will see the WTCC field take to the track for two thirty-minute Free Practice sessions, before the two-stage Qualifying begins at 15.45 local time (20.45 CET).
Drivers impressed by the Argentine track
WTCC drivers were positively impressed in discovering the Termas de Río Hondo circuit during today’s test session.
Yvan Muller: “I think it’s a really nice track, very interesting and with a good rhythm to it. It’s very flat and still a bit dirty in places, but for sure it’s one of the best tracks of the season. It’s probably the circuit where there will be most overtaking, as it’s very wide and there are lots of places to pass off-line. I did a little bit of preparation about the track before I left home, but only five minutes or so. I prefer to see it for myself!”
Tiago Monteiro: “It’s an interesting track – very flowing and quite technical, quite fast and wide so there are a lot of possibilities to take different lines. You pick up the general aspects of the track quite quickly, but the fine-tuning will take some time as there are so many different lines available. It’s very dirty with sand on the surface and work still going on; the wind brings more sand across the track and it’s very slippery, but it’s the same for everyone. Generally, the first impression is very positive. It will give a good show because there is so much room to pass.”
Robert Huff: “I’m really impressed. I think it’s a great track and I think it’s going to give some really good racing. It’s a wide, wide circuit, there are lots of places where you can overtake and it has probably the longest straight we’ll see this year – something like 1.2km – so there’ll be plenty of slipstreaming opportunities. It’ll be a tough weekend for sure, there are so many unknowns and so many variables that you have to get right. Everyone is learning; the weather is changing all the time and one lap can be clean and dust-free and you come around again and you can see the dust from where someone’s gone off. I love these really challenging tracks that are sent to test us.”
Tom Coronel: “It was certainly interesting – from the outside, it looked a lot more grippy! It felt like it was wet and the tyres looked like they were completely new at the end of the session. The circuit has a good flow, but it’s easy to make a mistake and so in the races I think there will be lots of overtaking. There are a lot of corners where you’re braking into the corner so it’s very easy to lock the front tyres. The corner just before the straight is very nice – at the moment, it’s a big lift for me but I think it should be taken flat so you then gain the speed for the rest of the straight. I think if you start from P1 in race 2, you will only have the benefit for one lap as it’s so easy to overtake here. The grip level will improve because of the rubber level and the lap times will improve by at least one and a half, maybe two seconds.”
James Thompson: “I think it’s a beautiful circuit; probably the smoothest circuit I’ve ever driven on – it’s like driving on glass. Obviously, with it not being used it’s very slippery off-line and so you have to be very careful to be consistent from lap to lap. It’s a short lap, but I think it’ll make for some entertaining racing. We’re starting to be more consistent with the car this year and we’re in the top ten after testing. Our understanding of the car is much better and this extra thirty minutes of testing is very important for us. Preparation is key, but knowing the intricacies of your own car is vital to knowing how to deal with whatever the track throws at you.”