Chevrolet’s Alain Menu was once again the fastest driver in the opening test session, as the Swiss racer posted a 1:05.978 lap time on the World Touring Car Championship’s first visit to mainland China.
Robert Dahlgren set the second fastest time in his Polestar Volvo, just 0.039 seconds slower than Menu. Colin Turkington was third quickest in the Wiechers-Sport BMW. Towards the end of the session the leading three were trading top times, with Dahlgren, Turkington and then Menu all enjoying time at the top of the timesheets.
The session took place on an overcast day at the Tianma Circuit and was being used by all drivers to learn the circuit – with none having raced at the venue before. Several drivers had spins as they got to grips with the twisty new circuit, with Franz Engstler, Kristian Poulsen, Norbert Michelisz and Mehdi Bennani all spinning at Turn 12.
Championship protagonists Rob Huff and Yvan Muller were fourth and fifth fastest respectively – although both were within two tenths of Menu’s fastest lap.
The winner from the last race Tom Coronel was sixth in his ROAL Motorsport BMW and the last of the runners to lap within a second of Menu’s time. He was followed by Kristian Poulsen and Franz Engstler in seventh and eighth, with Darryl O’Young and Javier Villa completing the top ten. Villa had caused a red-flag towards the end of the session when he spun into the gravel at Turn 4.
None of the six SUNRED cars were able to break into the top ten and the session ended with Gabriele Tarquini as the best of the former SEAT racers – 1.5 seconds off the pace in 11th. Tiago Monteiro was shortly behing in 12th.