World champion fastest during rain-affected day at Vallelunga
Ekblom and Björk impress in all-new Volvo S60 Polestar TC1s
WTCC title holder José María López has topped day two of official FIA World Touring Car Championship testing in Italy today. Rain – even a freak hail storm – had dampened the Vallelunga circuit and appeared to have made the early running decisive in terms of the fastest lap times until the factory Citroën driver struck during the day’s fifth and final session with a best lap of 1m37.123s around the the 4.085-kilometre Rome track.
Team-mate Yvan Muller set the bar with a 1m37.730s in the opening dry session and was quickest again in the second session before handing over the C-Eylsée WTCC test car to López. But while López also set the pace in session four, the third session of the day was notable following Fredrik Ekblom’s pacesetting time in his Volvo S60 Polestar TC1.
The Swedish make’s performance brand is embarking on a long-term WTCC campaign from 2016 and the results of testing will give the factory Polestar squad plenty of cause for optimism, particularly after Ekblom’s team-mate, Thed Björk went second quickest in the dry first session to complete the day in third overall.
“We have had two extremely valuable test days,” said Björk. “While we can’t draw any real conclusions until the first race, it is satisfying to see that we straight out of the box are quite close to the top times.”
Mehdi Bennani, who was fastest of all on the dry opening day of testing on Wednesday, underlined his WTCC Trophy title credentials with fourth overall in his Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën. Behind Ekblom in the overall standings, Nobert Michelisz was sixth in a works Honda Civic WTCC followed by Grégoire Demoustier, Tom Chilton and René Münnich.
The two-day official WTCC test was in preparation for the opening weekend of the 2016 season at Circuit Paul Ricard in France from 1-3 April when a number of drivers not in action at Vallelunga, including works LADA trio Nicky Catsburg, Gabriele Tarquini and Hugo Valente, plus Honda pair Rob Huff and Tiago Monteiro, will be on track.
WTCC Official Test day two, combined classification:
1 José María López (ARG) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC (1m37.123s); 2 Yvan Muller (FRA) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC (1m37.730s); 3 Thed Björk (SWE) Volvo S60 Polestar TC1 (1m38.527s); 4 Mehdi Bennani (MAR) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC (1m39.016s); 5 Fredrik Ekblom (SWE) Volvo S60 Polestar TC1 (1m39.223s); 6 Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Honda Civic WTCC (1m39.795s); 7 Grégoire Demoustier (FRA) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC (1m39.795s); 8 Tom Chilton (GBR) Citroën C-Elysée WTCC (1m49.291s); 9 René Münnich (DEU) Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 (1m40.371s).