Rob Huff dominated the test session on Porto’s Circuito da Boavista. The Briton and his Chevrolet Cruze car emerged as the fastest from the very beginning, improving four times the fastest lap and eventually posting a 2:09.026 that no one was able to match.
Huff’s team-mates Alain Menu and Yvan Muller were second and third fastest with laps of 2:09.667 and 2.09.758 respectively. All the other competitors remained above the 2:10 mark.
Norbert Michelisz was the best of the rest, posting the fourth fastest lap of 2:10.576 just ahead of WTCC comebacker Stefano D’Aste (2:10.814) and an impressive Mehdi Bennani (2:10.969).
With Tom Coronel in seventh, Pepe Oriola was the fastest of the SUNRED drivers, posting the eighth fastest lap of 2:11.950. His team mate Gabriele Tarquini was not able to clock any lap times because on some technical issues. "It looks like a fuel feeding problem," he explained.
The drivers had a very cautious approach during this first session and no major incidents were reported. However, the session was red flagged (and not resumed) with four minutes on the clock, when Robert Dahlgren’s Volvo C30 hit the barriers at Turn 2 and stopped on the track.
Huff commented: "I really love street circuits! I managed to build up consistently, looking for the grip when I needed it. The car’s balance was fantastic, perfect for this track!"
The WTCC field will hit the track again tomorrow for the usual two 30-minute free practices and the 45-minute extended qualifying.
Rob Huff set the fastest lap in today’s test session at Porto
DRIVERS IMPRESSED BY RACETRACK IMPROVEMENTS
Rob Huff’s fastest lap in today’s test session set already a new track record for WTCC car on the Circuito da Boavista. Huff’s 2:09.026 improved the previous record of 2:09.308 clocked by Gabriele Tarquini during 2009 qualifying session.
This was mainly due to extensive improvements made to the street circuit located between Porto and Matosinhos.
"I am positively impressed," said local hero Tiago Monteiro. "The chicanes are now proper chicanes, most of the tarmac is new and smooth, and most of the track is considerably wider. This means that is also faster, but they have provided larger run-off areas that help to correct mistakes. I would say that 90% of the circuit is now very good. In my view they should just resurface the roundabout at Turn 1 and – possibly – the sector in between the houses at rua de Vilarinha and rua de Vila Nova."
Huff echoed: "The circuit needed to be improved and I think they have done a great job. They have turned what was a special circuit in a VERY special circuit that is actually enjoyable to drive. Look at Turn 4, it used to be a first-gear slow corner, not is a third-gear one. And the chicanes along the back straight are now very challenging."
Championship promoter Marcello Lotti was also satisfied: "The municipality of Porto, the Portuguese National Sporting Authority and Porto Lazer have put in a huge joint effort to improve the track a lot. They had promised it and they have kept their word."
Tiago Monteiro was impressed by the improvements made to his home track
RTP TO BROADCAST WTCC RACES ON SUNDAY
Portuguese national free-to-air public TV, RTP will grant extensive coverage to the WTCC event in Porto. RTP2 will broadcast both races on Sunday: Race 2 live from 16.35 to 17.30 and Race 1 on a delay basis from 17.30 to 18.25. RTP1 will broadcast live stand up on Sunday at 13.00 and reports in the evening news at 20.00.
Finally RTPN sports channel will focus on pre-event promotion within their magazine "Speed" on Saturday at 14.00.
Additional coverage will be granted by TVI and SIC through highlights and news.