Pepe Oriola sets the pace in significantly delayed first practice

Pepe Oriola sets the pace in significantly delayed first practice

Pepe Oriola
Photo: Jean Michel Le Meur / DPPI

Pepe Oriola was the fastest driver in a significantly delayed first practice session for the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) on the streets of Wuhan in China, putting his CUPRA on top late in the session.

The session was only five minutes in when Team Mulsanne’s Fabrizio Giovanardi went off at the chicane on his first flying lap, the Italian missing his braking point and hitting the barriers.

Although Giovanardi was unscathed, both his Alfa Romeo and the barriers were not and it took over an hour to sufficiently repair the concrete wall and associated catch fencing by the side of the track.

When the session resumed there were naturally improvements all around, before Oriola went to the top of the times in the closing minutes with an effort of 1 minute 24.006 seconds.

That put the Spaniard over half a second clear of the Comtoyou Racing Audi of Nathanaël Berthon in second, whilst WRT’s Gordon Shedden was third quickest in a promising early start for the team, who endured so many difficulties at the last round.

DG Sport’s Aurélien Comte put his Peugeot in fourth, ahead of a trio of Audis headed up by Comtoyou Racing’s Denis Dupont on fifth.

WRT’s Jean-Karl Vernay had earlier been on top of the times but ended up in sixth, seven tenths off the pace, ahead of Comtoyou Racing’s Frédéric Vervisch in seventh.

The top ten was completed by the Münnich Motorsport Honda of Yann Ehrlacher in eighth, the YMR Hyundai of Yvan Muller in ninth and the second DG Sport Peugeot of Mat’o Homola in tenth.

The best of the Volkswagen runners was Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Rob Huff in 11th, the Brit being the only driver on the grid with some prior experience of the circuit, although he could only lap over a second off the pace.

Championship leader Gabriele Tarquini could only manage the 18th quickest time, 1.669 seconds adrift, although the veteran Italian was ahead of BRC Racing team-mate Norbert Michelisz, who was just 20th.

A second, ten-minute, red flag stoppage was required when Boutsen Ginion Racing’s Tom Coronel went off into the tyres at the chicane; the Dutchman ended up in 22nd.

Session results

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 74 Pepe ORIOLA Team Oscaro by Campos Racing CUPRA TCR 16 1:24.006 0.000
2 23 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS 15 1:24.517 0.511
3 52 Gordon SHEDDEN Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS 14 1:24.587 0.581
4 7 Aurélien COMTE DG Sport Compétition Peugeot 308 TCR 18 1:24.699 0.693
5 20 Denis DUPONT Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS 15 1:24.703 0.697
6 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS 15 1:24.708 0.702
7 22 Frédéric VERVISCH Audi Sport Team Comtoyou Audi RS3 LMS 16 1:24.742 0.736
8 68 Yann EHRLACHER ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 18 1:24.875 0.869
9 48 Yvan MULLER YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR 16 1:25.127 1.121
10 70 Mat’o HOMOLA DG Sport Compétition Peugeot 308 TCR 18 1:25.132 1.126
11 12 Rob HUFF Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 15 1:25.233 1.227
12 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 18 1:25.240 1.234
13 11 Thed BJÖRK YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR 17 1:25.267 1.261
14 21 Aurélien PANIS Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS 18 1:25.308 1.302
15 25 Mehdi BENNANI Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 19 1:25.459 1.453
16 42 Timo SCHEIDER ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 19 1:25.600 1.594
17 55 MA Qing Hua Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 13 1:25.605 1.599
18 30 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 16 1:25.675 1.669
19 31 Kevin CECCON Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 16 1:25.729 1.723
20 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 19 1:25.790 1.784
21 66 Zsolt Dávid SZABÓ Zengő Motorsport CUPRA TCR 15 1:25.845 1.839
22 9 Tom CORONEL Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 8 1:26.178 2.172
23 8 Norbert NAGY Zengő Motorsport CUPRA TCR 17 1:26.180 2.174
24 27 John FILIPPI Team Oscaro by Campos Racing CUPRA TCR 16 1:26.688 2.682
25 88 Fabrizio GIOVANARDI Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 1 No time N/A