Portugal WTCC: Michelisz tops FP1, Coronel crashes into fire truck
Norbert Michelisz led a Honda 1-2 in the first WTCC practice session at the Vila Real street circuit, which saw Dutch driver Tom Coronel slide down an escape road and hit a fire truck.
Sebastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani set the early pace, but after 10 minutes, Michelisz jumped to the top of in his Honda and led the way through much of the rest of the session.
The joker lap, which adds around two seconds to the lap, was open for use during the practice, with Michelisz opting to try the new route the most of any driver – a total of six times during the session.
Others such as Campos Chevrolet driver Esteban Guerrieri, who has experience of joker laps in the Super TC 2000 Championship, opted not to even make one attempt.
Yann Ehrlacher ran into trouble early on in his RC Motorsport Lada when he clouted the barriers and punctured his front-right tyre.
The next and most notable drama occurred with just over 25 minutes to go. After complaining of chronic understeer, ROAL Motorsport’s Coronel seemed to lose his brakes and shot off down an escape road, where he collided with a stationary fire truck.
Watch Coronel hit a fire truck...
With Coronel's car far off the circuit, the session continued interrupted, and Michelisz went under the two-minute mark with a time of 1m59.574s.
The Hungarian improved on his time two more times in the session, finishing up on a 1m58.118s, over half a second clear of his Honda teammate Tiago Monteiro.
The session was red-flagged with just over 10 minutes to go, with a dog loose on the track at the final corner. After the dog was rounded up by the marshals, the session resumed, but no one had the pace to beat Michelisz.
Thed Bjork was third fastest in the Polestar Volvo, just over a second off the pace, with Rob Huff taking fourth in the Munnich Citroen ahead championship leader Nicky Catsburg fifth.
Bennani, Nestor Girolami (Volvo), Ryo Michigami (Honda), Ehrlacher and Tom Chilton (SLR Citroen) completed the top 10.
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes
First practice results:
Ex-Lada WTCC driver Valente retires from racing
Portugal WTCC: Huff outpaces Michelisz in second practice