Citroen Racing’s Yvan Muller was fastest of all in the first WTCC practice session at the Paul Ricard circuit, leading title rival Jose Maria Lopez by two tenths of a second.
Muller, 30 points behind Lopez in the championship heading into this weekend, led throughout the session, with his first time of 1:31.151 already faster than Lopez’s best from the session, before Muller found even more time on his second lap to set a 1:30.950.
The bulk of the fast times were set early on in the session, with Tarquini a late improver to put his factory Honda fifth behind teammate Tiago Monteiro and Sebastien Loeb’s Citroen.
Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Gregoire Demoustier was the best placed of the independents’ trophy drivers in sixth overall, with the French driver putting on a strong performance to be the best placed of the Chevrolet RML drivers for the first time in any session this season.
Ma Qing Hua was seventh in his Citroen ahead of the best placed Lada, that of Nicky Catsburg in eighth, with Zengo Honda’s Norbert Michelisz and Campos Chevrolet’s Hugo Valente completing the top 10.
Additional tyre stacks have been placed at Turns 2 and 5 following the drivers’ briefing on Friday, where a number of drivers questioned the use of the circuit run-off after yesterday’s test.
The new tyre stacks caused delays in both Lopez's and Tarquini's programmes as they both made contact with them during the session.
Ma, Catsburg and Munnich Motorsport driver Stefano D’Aste were all warned for exceeding the track limits, with D’Aste losing his fastest lap, but the Italian would improve again in the final moments to set the 11th fastest time in his Chevrolet.
Full Practice Results:
|2||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroen||1:31.159|
|7||Ma Qing Hua||Citroen||1:31.441|
|12||Jaap Van Lagen||Lada||1:31.762|
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes