Gabriele Tarquini posted the fastest time in Friday testing for the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) around the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, ahead of Zengő Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz.
The session took place in warm and humid conditions, with an ambient temperature of 27 degrees Celsius at the circuit to the north of Tokyo.
Tarquini’s time of 1:57.146 was over half a second quicker than Michelisz, with the top Citroën of championship leader José María López in third.
The Italian cautioned against reading too much into his top time, however, as the recent heavy rain in Japan gave the track poor grip.
“Normally on Friday we are sometimes the fastest car on track and it’s happened many times in the past because we use new tyres, and new tyres make a big difference at this track,” explained Tarquini. “The track was totally green, with no grip at all because of the rain I suppose, but I don’t know this track.
“The level of grip was very poor but increasing during Free Practice 0. I am happy; I have one of my team-mates behind me and it’s a pleasure to be back in Japan and fastest in Free Practice 0. To be in front of everybody for the first session make everybody happy to continue to work.”
The second works’ Honda of Tiago Monteiro was fourth, ahead of the top LADA of Nicky Catsburg in fifth, who was the last driver to be within a second of the pace.
Mehdi Bennani was fifth fastest in his independent Citroën, ahead of team boss Sébastien Loeb in sixth, LADA’s Rob Huff in seventh and Citroën duo Yvan Muller and Ma Qing Hua completing the top ten.
ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel was the leading Chevrolet driver in 11th, as the RML-built cars occupied six of the bottom seven positions on the timesheet.
On his WTCC début, Nicolas Lapierre was 12th fastest, 2.212 seconds off the pace around the 4.8 km circuit.
|1||2||Gabriele TARQUINI||Castrol Honda WTC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||9||1:57.146||0.000|
|2||5||Y||Norbert MICHELISZ||Zengő Motorsport||Honda Civic WTCC||11||1:57.659||0.513|
|3||37||José María LÓPEZ||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||11||1:57.669||0.523|
|4||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||Castrol Honda WTC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||9||1:57.792||0.646|
|5||10||Nick CATSBURG||LADA Sport Rosneft||LADA Vesta WTCC||12||1:58.075||0.929|
|6||25||Y||Mehdi BENNANI||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||13||1:58.152||1.006|
|7||9||Sébastien LOEB||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||10||1:58.169||1.023|
|8||12||Rob HUFF||LADA Sport Rosneft||LADA Vesta WTCC||12||1:58.714||1.568|
|9||68||Yvan MULLER||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||12||1:58.852||1.706|
|10||33||MA Qing Hua||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||12||1:58.966||1.820|
|11||4||Y||Tom CORONEL||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||10||1:59.077||1.931|
|12||47||Nicolas LAPIERRE||LADA Sport Rosneft||LADA Vesta WTCC||12||1:59.358||2.212|
|13||27||Y||John FILIPPI||Campos Racing||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||11||1:59.371||2.225|
|14||26||Y||Stefano D’ASTE||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||11||1:59.711||2.565|
|15||7||Y||Hugo VALENTE||Campos Racing||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||7||2:00.104||2.958|
|16||3||Y||Tom CHILTON||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||8||2:00.228||3.082|
|17||11||Y||Grégoire DEMOUSTIER||Craft-Bamboo Racing||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||12||2:01.419||4.273|