During the first free practice session at the Nordschleife Jose Maria Lopez completely turned the tables around on his Citroen teammate Yvan Muller by setting the fastest lap time in an eventful first practice session at the Nurburgring.
The double world champion went fastest from the word ‘go’ of the practice session, he straight away went five seconds faster than the rest of the competitors with a best time of 8:44.236 around the fourteen-mile-long circuit. He was looking set to improve on his fastest time before he backed out of his faster lap as he approached a yellow flag zone around the circuit but he still remained one second clear of the chasing pack.
Yvan Muller was the fastest driver in the test session on Thursday morning but was unable to fight back with a faster time than his teammate during the hour long first free practice session of the weekend. The French driver was able to jump to second with is first quick attempt at a faster lap, he set a lap time of 8:45.319 shortly prior to the session being brought to a sudden halt after Rob Huff crashed his Honda.
Rob Huff had been looking likely to be on course to improve his fastest lap time, he suffered a right front suspension failure and had a heavy shunt into the armco barrier on his right hand side before he was sent bouncing across the track eventually coming to a halt. He finished the session in fifth on the timing screens despite the accident. The Brit was unhurt in the accident and was able to walk away from his damaged Honda Civic. With a little over one minute of the session being left and Huff’s car still stricken at the edge of the circuit, the organisers made the decision to red flag the session.
As a result of the session being terminated Tom Chilton ended the session in third place aboard his Satellite C-Elysee, completing a 1-2-3 for Citroen. The Sebastien Loeb Racing driver had lost less time compared to his rivals through the yellow flag zone but appeared to slow down sufficiently on his lap. He ended the session 1.389 seconds down on Lopez’s lap time. He was comfortably faster than his teammates Mehdi Bennani, who finished in ninth and Gregoire Demoustier, who finished the session down in seventeenth.
Lada’s Nicky Catsburg was the highest finisher of the team in fourth just ahead of Huff and Honda teammate Norbert Michelisz. The latter had suffered a throttle pedal issue on his first flying lap and stopped early on as the session was beginning to get underway but the recovery of his car gave mechanics a change to look over the car, find the issue and resolve it. They repaired the issue with ten minutes remaining of the free practice session, so the Hungarian re-joined the circuit in his Civic.
Gabriele Tarquini ended the session in seventh, with Tiago Monteiro in eighth, Mehdi Bennani finished in ninth with Tom Coronel rounding out the top ten in the first of the Chevrolet Cruze’s.
Apart from Rob Huff having a crash and Norbert Michelisz having mechanical issues there were two other drivers who suffered significant issues. Halfway through the session Hugo Valente in his Lada run car suffered a front right puncture on his second flying lap at the Wippermann corner of the circuit, he made some contact with the barrier before ending up back on the track which broke both right wheels. Due to this issue they had to bring out the first slow zone of the session. Polestar’s Fredrik Ekblom finished the session in thirteenth after being limited to just one lap due to suffering an engine misfire.
The results of Free Practice One are as follows:
- Jose Maria Lopez ~ Citroen Racing ~ Citroen
- Yvan Muller ~ Citroen Racing ~ Citroen
- Tom Chilton ~ Sebastien Loeb Racing ~ Citroen
- Nicky Catsburg ~ LADA Sport ~ Lada
- Rob Huff ~ Honda Racing Team JAS ~ Honda
- Norbert Michelizs ~ Honda Racing Team JAS ~ Honda
- Gabriele Tarquini ~ LADA Sport ~ Lada
- Tiago Monteiro ~ Honda Racing Team JAS ~ Honda
- Mehdi Bennani ~ Sebastien Loeb Racing ~ Citroen
- Tom Coronel ~ ROAL Motorsport ~ Chevrolet
- Hugo Valente ~ LADA Sport ~ Lada
- Thed Bjork ~ Polestar Cyan Racing ~ Volvo
- Fredrik Ekblom ~ Polestar Cyan Racing ~ Volvo
- Sabine Schmitz ~ Munnich Motorsport ~ Chevrolet
- John Filippi ~ Campos Racing ~ Chevrolet
- Ferenc Ficza ~ Zengo Motorsport ~ Honda
- Gregoire Demoustier ~ Sebastian Loeb Racing ~ Citroen
©Fay Tilley 29th May 2016