Alain Menu - Photo Credit: fiawtcc.com

Alain Menu - Photo Credit: fiawtcc.com

Alain Menu topped the timesheets as the run-in to the World Touring Car Championship season commenced with a Friday test session at Suzuka in Japan.

Chevrolet driver Menu knocked Polestar Volvo pilot Robert Dahlgren off top spot with a couple minutes remaining in what was an unusually closely fought session.

Rob Huff, who is 24 points behind teammate and points leader Yvan Muller arriving in Asia, posted the third fastest time, 0.253 seconds behind Menu. Tiago Monteiro edged out Muller to put his SUNRED Leon fourth.

Tom Coronel was the top BMW in sixth ahead of Gabriele Tarquini, while rally driver Toshi Arai was an impressive eighth on his car racing debut in a fourth factory Chevrolet Cruze. Darryl O'Young was ninth in his Bamboo-run Cruze, ahead of the returning Colin Turkington.

Debutant Hiroki Yoshimoto was 14th in his SUNRED car, just ahead of Norbert Michelisz who limited his running with an off that brought out the red flags just five minutes into the session. Masaki Kano was 21st, making his season debut in the KK Motorsport-entered BMW, just ahead of another WTCC newcomer Charles Ng of Hong Kong in a normally-aspirated Engstler BMW.

Test session times

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap Laps
1 Alain Menu Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 53.608 24
2 Robert Dahlgren Polestar Volvo C30 Drive 53.722 0.114 16
3 Robert Huff Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 53.861 0.253 20
4 Tiago Monteiro Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 54.177 0.569 23
5 Yvan Muller Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 54.200 0.592 17
6 Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 320 TC 54.409 0.801 22
7 Gabriele Tarquini Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 54.448 0.840 22
8 Toshihiro Arai Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 54.479 0.871 26
9 Darryl O’Young Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 54.615 1.007 24
10 Colin Turkington Wiechers BMW 320 TC 54.643 1.035 23
11 Michel Nykjaer Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 54.721 1.113 23
12 Javier Villa Proteam BMW 320 TC 54.750 1.142 25
13 Kristian Poulsen Engstler BMW 320 TC 54.830 1.222 28
14 Hiroki Yoshimoto Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 55.026 1.418 21
15 Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 320 TC 55.036 1.428 12
16 Yukinori Taniguchi Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 55.067 1.459 23
17 Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 320 TC 55.068 1.460 26
18 Fredy Barth Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 55.354 1.746 24
19 Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 320 TC 55.403 1.795 27
20 Aleksei Dudukalo Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 55.636 2.028 25
21 Masaki Kano KK BMW 320 TC 56.158 2.550 28
22 Charles Ng Engstler BMW 320si 56.567 2.959 26
23 Pepe Oriola Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 56.906 3.298 9
24 Fabio Fabiani Proteam BMW 320si 59.847 6.239 25