Santiago Urrutia comes out on top in fog-delayed opening practice

Amidst the lingering Winter mist, Santiago Urrutia led the way in the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) practice session of the weekend, as all four Cyan Racing Lynk & Cos looked very strong indeed.

With the track shrouded in a thick layer of fog throughout most of the morning, there was a lengthy delay to the start of proceedings. Things did eventually get underway though, albeit two and a half hours later than originally billed.

In the early stages, grip was rather hard to come by as a result of the frosty track temperature, with the majority of drivers electing to run wet weather tyres on the rear axle to begin with.

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After around ten minutes of track time, the circuit had evolved enough for full slicks to be the tyre selection of choice. That said, grip levels perhaps still weren’t quite to Luca Filippi’s liking, as the Italian span off into the gravel trap in sector two.

A full course yellow neutralised the session, but only briefly, as the marshals worked rapidly to push Filippi’s Alfa Romeo back onto the circuit.

But while one of the Team Mulsanne cars was in strife, the other looked very well-sorted indeed. With an outside shot at the overall championship, Jean-Karl Vernay needs a stellar weekend to overthrow the likes of Yann Ehrlacher or Esteban Guerrieri at the top of the table. Starting as he clearly means to go on, the Frenchman topped the timesheets at the twenty-minute mark.

After the track limits debacle of two weeks ago, a series of tyre stacks have been implemented around the Aragón circuit to deter corner cutting. However, it wasn’t long before one of the cars inevitably ran into them, with returning wildcard José Manuel Sapag clouting a stack at the chicane in sector four.

This led to another brief yellow flag period, as debris from his car had to be moved away from the racing line. When the track went green again, there were some movers and shakers throughout the leaderboard, including at the top.

Vernay’s compatriot, Yvan Muller soon knocked him off of his perch for first, while the three other Lynk & Co drivers all moved up into the top five.

With five minutes left to go, the track appeared to be rubbering in somewhat as the lap times began to tumble. Attila Tassi was the next driver to go quickest but was quickly overthrown by Thed Björk.

In the end though, it was Björk’s team-mate Urrutia that would come out on top with a lap time of 2 minutes 14.148 seconds.

Championship leader Ehrlacher was next up in second place, just four hundredths of a second off the pace. Vernay, meanwhile, finished the session in third.

Local driver Mikel Azcona again looks quick on home turf in the CUPRA, concluding this session in fourth place, while early pace-setter Muller rounded out the top five ahead of Björk.

Nathanaël Berthon was the best of the Audi trio in seventh position, while Hungarian youngster Tassi dropped to eighth by the time that the chequered flag was waved.

Tassi’s compatriot Norbert Michelisz was the best of the Hyundai bunch in ninth, around four tenths of a second quicker than Tiago Monteiro who completed the top ten.

Fellow Honda driver Guerrieri had a worryingly slow start to the day. The Argentine who lies second in the overall drivers’ standings will be far from happy with sixteenth.

Due to the earlier fog delays, free practice two is set to get underway slightly later than billed, with the session now scheduled to begin at 13:30 CEST (12:30 GMT).

Session results

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 12 Santiago URRUTIA Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR 13 2:14.148 0.000
2 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR 13 2:14.185 0.037
3 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR 13 2:14.325 0.177
4 96 Mikel AZCONA Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 17 2:14.346 0.198
5 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 03 TCR 13 2:14.395 0.247
6 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 03 TCR 14 2:14.461 0.313
7 17 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 15 2:14.903 0.755
8 9 Attila TASSI ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 14 2:14.905 0.757
9 1 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 14 2:15.000 0.852
10 18 Tiago MONTEIRO ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 13 2:15.387 1.239
11 16 Gilles MAGNUS Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 12 2:15.482 1.334
12 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 15 2:15.485 1.337
13 8 Luca ENGSTLER Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 14 2:15.642 1.494
14 30 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai i30 N TCR 13 2:15.677 1.529
15 55 Bence BOLDIZS Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 15 2:15.818 1.670
16 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 13 2:15.876 1.728
17 34 Aurélien COMTE Vuković Motorsport Renault Mégane RS TCR 15 2:16.103 1.955
18 25 Luca FILIPPI Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR 15 2:16.120 1.972
19 27 Mitchell CHEAH Min Jie Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 14 2:18.313 4.165
20 28 José Manuel SAPAG Target Competition Hyundai i30 N TCR 14 2:18.590 4.442
21 99 Gábor KISMARTY-LECHNER Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición 14 2:19.001 4.853
22 31 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 6 2:24.684 10.536
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