Huff Wades In To Start Donington’s WTCC Saturday On Top

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Rob Huff braved the rain at Donington Park to top the first of two free practice session at the Midlands track on the World Touring Car Championship's first visit to the track.

Through heavy rain greeted the WTCC field when the rolled out of the pitlane for the start of the half hour session the weather did little to alter the pattern of 2011 and the three RML Chevrolet Cruze's soon established themselves at the top of the timesheets.

Though rain continued to fall the times fell gradually during the session, Huff leading the battle against the clock as he improved from 1:54 after the first flying laps around the full Donington Grand Prix to the 1:41.058 that he ended the session with.

Only RML teammate Yvan Muller was able to beat Huff, scoring the fastest time on two separate occasions, only for the Briton to eclipse it again, the last with only two minutes of the session remaining.

Alain Menu in the third Cruze suffered slightly in the slippery conditions, one of many drivers to run wide, the Swiss driver's main digression from the tarmac coming at the Melbourne Hairpin.

Another to struggle in the conditions was Colin Turkington. Having only been confirmed at the WiechersSport team in the week before the race the former BTCC champion struggled for pace, languishing down towards the foot of the 21 car order. When he did improve his time – initially lumping to 11th fastest – he promptly ran into the gravel on the outside of Redgate, the BMW beached firmly, ending his session early.

Norbert Michelisz was one of many to tease the Donington Park grass during the session

Though many other drivers – Fabio Fabiani, Tiago Monteiro, Kristian Poulsen and Norbert Michelisz included, had their own trips through the gravel Turkington remained the only man to be forced out of the session early after an off.

Montiero, despite a few ragged moments, broke the SEAT domination to claim the third fastest time ahead of Robert Dahlgren and Pepe Oriola. Alain Menu finished sixth fastest, Tom Coronel was the best of the BMW's down in eighth, nearly 2.5 seconds away from Huff's pace.

First free practice results:

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap Laps
1 Robert Huff Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:51.058   15
2 Yvan Muller Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:51.306 0.248 12
3 Tiago Monteiro Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 1:52.299 1.241 15
4 Robert Dahlgren Polestar Volvo C30 Drive 1:52.311 1.253 14
5 Pepe Oriola Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 1:52.748 1.690 14
6 Alain Menu Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:53.152 2.094 13
7 Michel Nykjaer Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 1:53.348 2.290 12
8 Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 320 TC 1:53.467 2.409 14
9 Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 320 TC 1:53.523 2.465 15
10 Kristian Poulsen Engstler BMW 320 TC 1:53.651 2.593 15
11 Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 320 TC 1:53.866 2.808 17
12 Fredy Barth Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 1:54.156 3.098 12
13 Yukinori Taniguchi Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:54.503 3.445 15
14 Gabriele Tarquini Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 1:55.063 4.005 10
15 Javier Villa Proteam BMW 320 TC 1:55.437 4.379 13
16 Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 320 TC 1:55.493 4.435 14
17 Colin Turkington Wiechers BMW 320 TC 1:55.679 4.621 7
18 Darryl O’Young Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 1:56.389 5.331 13
19 Aleksei Dudukalo Sunred Sunred SR Leon 1.6T 1:56.463 5.405 15
20 Fabio Fabiani Proteam BMW 320si 2:07.256 16.198 12
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