Citroen Racing's Jose Maria Lopez topped the time sheets in the first 30-minute testing session at the Losail circuit in Qatar, leading the way ahead of Norbert Michelisz with Mehdi Bennani third.
With the factory Citroens occupying the top spots throughout most of the session, there was a flurry of improvements in the last few minutes.
First Sebastien Loeb displaced Citroen team-mate Ma Qing Hua for the fastest time, before his own team’s driver Bennani went quicker in the privateer Citroen C-Elysee WTCC.
Lopez then took over, clocking in a time of 2m03.316s to set the benchmark for this evening’s free practice sessions, which will take place under the floodlights.
Zengo Motorsport’s Michelisz put in a late flyer after the chequered flag to go second-fastest in the Honda Civic, just ahead of his independents’ championship rival Bennani.
Hugo Valente was the best-placed of the Chevrolet drivers, with the Frenchman setting the fourth-fastest time overall, with the next closest Chevrolet his Campos Racing team-mate John Filippi in ninth.
Of the Lada drivers, Nicolas Lapierre was the fastest, eighth overall in the Vesta, while Rob Huff had limited running in the session with an as of yet unidentified issue, and ended up 17th of the 18 runners.
Tiago Monteiro in the factory Honda went off at Turn 6 after just five minutes, causing a 15-minute red flag delay, and would end the session without having set a time.
Nasser Al-Attiyah, making his WTCC debut in the QMMF-backed third Campos Chevrolet was 16th, just under four seconds off of Lopez’s pace.
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes