Yvan Muller set the pace in today’s test session at Donington Park, but Robert Dahlgren’s Volvo emerged as the second fastest car, very close to the reigning world champion’s Chevrolet.
Alain Menu was the first to post a significant time, completing a lap in 1:38.725 in the early minutes; soon afterwards Rob Huff improved the mark to 1:38.326 that kept him on top of the time sheet until the mid of the session.
Dahlgren ousted Huff from the lead, posting a remarkable 1:38.209 that remained the fastest lap until the last five minutes, when Muller set an impressive 1:37.194 opening a nine-tenth gap between himself and the rest of the field.
Only Dahlgren was capable to fill part of this gap with two consecutive laps of 1:37.553 and 1:37.479, leaving Menu (1:38.125) and Huff (1:38.223) well behind, in third and fourth positions respectively.
Tom Coronel was the fastest of the BMW men in sixth (1:38.585), followed by Gabriele Tarquini (1:38.640), the best of the SUNRED pack.
Javier Villa (1:38.664) topped the Yokohama Trophy in seventh, ahead of Michel Nykjær (1:38.764), Colin Turkington (1:38.813) and Pepe Oriola (1:38.839).
Tiago Monteiro was not able to post any valid time, as his SUNRED León 1.6T remained nailed into the garage while the team were trying to solve engine bugs.
The WTCC field will hit the track again tomorrow for the usual two 30-minute free practices and the 30-minute qualifying.
Second fastest lap for Dahlgren’s Volvo in today’s test at Donington Park
THE WORD TO. MULLER AND DAHLGREN
Yvan Muller: "It was a good lap and I am happy with the balance of the car. We still have to improve and maybe there are some changes to do on the track, because there are a few cars cutting beyond the kerbs. It would be good to place some tyres here and there, otherwise it will be a mess."
Robert Dahlgren: "It is a promising results that proved we have the potential to stay close to the top. It would have been nice to be ahead of all the Chevrolet cars, but the car is good and I hope we will manage to be competitive and happy again after tomorrow’s qualifying."
YVAN MULLER COLLECTS BIKE AT NORTON FACTORY
Yvan Muller used the opportunity to be at Donington Park for taking delivery of his new Norton Commando 961 Special Edition straight from the factory of the legendary British motorcycle company, which is based close to the circuit.
For the occasion, the Frenchman had traveled to the UK by road, with his personal Chevrolet Captiva and a trailer, in order to be able to bring home his new 80hp black and gold bike, which is unit # 195 of a limited edition of 200.
"Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by motorcycles, it is a real passion and I have several vintage and custom bikes at home. I am not too much into sports bikes, what I really like is cruising around, enjoying the landscape and the sense of freedom that only motorcycles can provide. Some time ago, I had the opportunity to visit Norton’s factory and fell in love with the Commando 961 SE. I am sure I will have a lot of pleasure riding it this summer," commented the reigning world champion.
Yvan Muller and his new bike in front of the Norton factory at Donington Park
WTCC ATTENDANCE AND VIEWERSHIP UPTREND
Just before the second half of the 2011 FIA WTCC season kicks off at Donington Park this weekend, Eurosport Events announced that both the championship’s on-site attendance and TV audiences are on a significant upward trend.
In the first six events held so far, the world championship has attracted more than 350,000 spectators, which equates to an increase by 71% compared to 2010. This was mainly due to the outstanding crowds that attended the race meetings at Budapest’s Hungaroring (75,000) and Porto’s spectacular street circuit (140,000).
All the WTCC events have also benefited from an extensive live TV coverage, on local terrestrial channels, while Eurosport have increased TV audiences by 12% since the season started at Curitiba, Brazil.