Alex MacDowall set the fastest lap in the first outing for the WTCC drivers at Sonoma. The 30-minute test lasted only 26 minutes before being red flagged when Felice Tedeschi crashed at Turn 4.
Yvan Muller was the first one to time a significant lap of 1:49.891, ten minutes into the session. A few moment later Alain Menu improved to 1:49.373 and then Pepe Oriola moved the mark further ahead to 1:48.609.
With twelve minutes left on the clock MacDowall clocked a lap of 1:48.281 that eventually remained the fastest as the red flag shortened the session by four minutes.
Tedeschi went wide at Turn 4 and his Proteam BMW 320 TC hit the wall and rolled; the Italian newcomer had struggled from the beginning, spinning three times at Turn 2 before the crash. Despite the hard crash, Tedeschi was unscathed.
Fernando Monje set an impressive third fastest lap of 1:48.979, demoting Muller to fourth in the fastest of the Chevrolet cars. While Stefano DAste was the best of the BMW drivers, ranking eighth with a lap of 1:49.449. James Nashs Ford was timed at 1:50.270 and classified 14th.
MACDOWALL: THE RED FLAG HELPED ME
Commenting on his fastest lap, Alex MacDowall said: It was good. The track was a bit dusty and slippery. It was difficult to make one lap on the proper racing line. A lot of drivers were running wide to check the limits of the tracks. I managed to complete one good lap and set a kind of a bench mark. However I dont think it would stay the fastest until the end, because the red flag prevented the Chevrolet drivers to improve.
Tuenti Racing Team fellow Spaniards Pepe Oriola and Fernando Monje set the second and third fastest lap.
I did not use the news tyres. So Im quite happy with my second time. It has been a very good beginning to the weekend Oriola said.
And Monje echoed: I cannot complain. I did put the new tyres, but I think that my lap time was very encouraging.
US DRIVER TO RACE WITH BAMBOO AT SONOMA
Robb Holland is the first US driver to compete in the FIA World Touring Car Championship as he will drive for bamboo-engineering this weekend at Sonoma.
Holland replaces Pasquale Di Sabatino for this weekends round at Sonoma in California, and partners Alex MacDowall in the teams Chevrolet Cruze.
After being a professional cyclist for the US national team, Holland switched to car racing in 2006. Since then he established himself as a podium finisher in the SSCA World Challenge for Touring Cars, winning his first race last year at the wheel of a Volvo C30.
During the current season he is racing in the British Touring Car Championship driving a Honda Civic.
This is a very exciting weekend for me, and Im delighted to have the opportunity to join WTCC for the US event. I cant wait to get behind the wheel of the Chevrolet Cruze. This has been a last minute call-up, but Im thrilled to be given the chance to show what I can do in a competitive car with a team as strong as bamboo-engineering, Holland said.
Team Principal Richard Coleman added: This has all come together very late and has been very short notice for Rob, but were all very excited. Robb brings a lot of experience to the team and were all very much looking forward to working with him here at Sonoma this weekend.
WTCC DRIVERS MEET THE LOCAL MEDIA
Rob Huff, Alain Menu, Tom Chilton and Pepe Oriola joined WTCC General Manager Marcello Lotti as they all attended two media lunches on Wednesday and Thursday.
The events promoting the WTCC Race of USA at Sonoma took place at two elegant restaurants: the first one in San Francisco at McCormick and Culetos in Ghirardelli square, facing the Marina, the second one at the Zócalo in Sacramento.
Lotti delivered a brief welcome speech explaining why and how WTCC set up a race meeting at Sonoma.
I am especially proud to be here with you today, because the WTCC Race of USA at Sonoma is an historical event that marks the FIA World Touring Car Championships visit to the United States. To establish an event in North America has been one of our priorities in recent years. United States are an important market for car manufacturers and feature a very proud and long-standing motor-sport tradition. We are pleased to have reached this goal and bring the WTCC to Sonoma, he said.