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José María López sets the pace in First Practice

Citroën’s José María López was the fastest driver in First Free Practice for the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) in Argentina, ahead of Honda’s Tiago Monteiro and Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani.

Local hero López was on top of the times throughout the half hour session, rising to the top after just five minutes. The reigning champion then went on to improve his time by almost a second, ending the session a comfortable 0.465 seconds clear of Monteiro.

For his part, Monteiro had been the top Honda driver throughout, eventually going second fastest in the closing minutes. That left Bennani in third in his independent Citroën, having pipped fourth-placed team boss Sébastien Loeb at the end of the session.

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Yvan Muller was fifth fastest and the last driver to be within a second of the pace. Sixth went to Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini, with the Italian having completed little running in the first half of the session due to minor problems with his Civic.

Rob Huff posted the seventh fastest time in the new LADA Vesta, ahead of top Chevrolet driver Tom Chilton in eighth. Independent Honda drivers Dušan Borković and Norbert Michelisz completed the top ten.

The session was briefly red-flagged after ten minutes when ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel stopped on track with a front-left puncture. The Dutchman was able to return to the pits and, after a tyre change, continued in the session. He eventually posted the 12th fastest time.

WTCC newcomer Grégoire Demoustier was the slowest driver down in 18th position, 3.438 seconds off the pace in his newly-built RML Chevrolet Cruze.

Second practice takes place at 11:00 ART (14:00 GMT).

Top ten times

1 37 José María LÓPEZ Citroën Total WTCC Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 8 1:48.028 0.000
2 18 Tiago MONTEIRO Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC 10 1:48.493 0.465
3 25 Y Mehdi BENNANI Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 9 1:48.719 0.691
4 9 Sébastien LOEB Citroën Total WTCC Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 11 1:48.910 0.882
5 68 Yvan MULLER Citroën Total WTCC Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 9 1:48.988 0.960
6 2 Gabriele TARQUINI Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC 8 1:49.432 1.404
7 12 Rob HUFF LADA Sport Rosneft LADA Vesta WTCC 6 1:49.441 1.413
8 3 Y Tom CHILTON ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 11 1:49.831 1.803
9 98 Y Dušan BORKOVIĆ Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC 9 1:50.162 2.134
10 5 Y Norbert MICHELISZ Zengő Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC 11 1:50.247 2.219

Complete session results.

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