The brand new Honda Civic recorded the ninth fastest time in the test session at Suzuka ahead of its World Touring Car Championship debut, in the hands of Tiago Monteiro. The Chevrolet trio of Yvan Muller, Rob Huff and Alain Menu topped the timesheets.

Muller posted a fastest time of 53.129 seconds around the East Circuit, with Huff managing a 53.225 and Menu a 53.442. Monteiro’s 54.147 put him just over a second adrift of Muller.

“It was not bad,” said the Portuguese driver. “To be one second behind the Chevrolet cars after only a couple of months of work is a good starting point. Especially when we see that they have improved last year’s track record.

It feels good to be here, comparing ourselves with the rest of the field. We stay stick to our plan of developing the car, but it was nice to be in the middle of the field. We have some additional information now, and we will analyse them to see where we may improve. This first test was interesting and we are quite happy for what we are doing so far. We are right on schedule.

“The red flags came at the wrong times for me, as for a few other people, but we are where we wanted to be. And now we have to try and be closer. I pushed hard, without going for a qualifying set up. The car was rather set up for the races. So, there is a margin of improvement, no doubt about it. Both for the car and myself.”

The SEAT Leon was the best car other than the Chevrolets, with Pepe Oriola, Gabriele Tarquini and Aleksei Dudukalo filling positions four to six. Tom Coronel, whose two WTCC race wins have both come in Japan, was seventh in his BMW ahead of bamboo Chevrolet driver Alex MacDowall. Behind Monteiro, the top ten was rounded out by Norbert Michelisz.

Darryl O’Young was 11th on his return to bamboo, with Team Aon Ford driver Tom Chilton 12th and his teammate James Nash 14th. Returning to the WTCC for their home race, Hiroki Yoshimoto and Masaki Kano were 17th and 22nd respectively, with Rene Munnich 23rd and last on his first WTCC ever session having replaced O’Young at Special Tuning Racing.