Muller tops Sonoma practice as Chilton surprises

Muller tops Sonoma practice as Chilton surprises
By Eurosport

23/09/2012 at 00:32Updated 23/09/2012 at 01:38

Yvan Muller’s Chevrolet set the pace in the first WTTC practice at Sonoma as Tom Chilton was a surprising second in his Ford Focus just 0.053 seconds back.

Stefano D’Aste (1:47.862) and Alain Menu (1:47.205) were the first ones to clock significant lap times in the early stages. Then Muller (1:46.436) and Chilton (1:46.451) managed to break the 1:47 wall.

With seven minutes left on the clock, practice was disrupted by the red flag to clean the tarmac at Turn 2 after D’Aste and Alex MacDowall had spins there.

When the session resumed Muller and Menu improved to 1:46.398 and 1:46.574 respectively, however this was not enough for the Swiss racer to oust Chilton from second.

"Grip on the track was much better than yesterday. However this morning was quite cold, while we expect much warmer temperature for qualifying. Therefore grip conditions will be very different,” Muller said.

"We have worked a lot to improve our car after we struggled in Brazil. This morning’s result is really encouraging and I think that all the work we have done is paying off,” said Chilton.

His team-mate James Nash, confirmed the Focus’ progress by setting the seventh fastest lap of 1:47.306. Gabriele Tarquini (1:47:009) and Norbert Michelisz (1:47.032) ranked in fourth and fifth positions respectively, emerging as the fastest of the SEAT and BMW drivers. Mehdi Bennani posted the sixth best lap (1:47.264).

D’Aste had another thrilling moment after the session was resumed, outbraking himself at Turn 5 and steering wide on the grass; Franz Engstler (eighth with 1:47.319) spun and brushed the wall at Turn 9 on his last lap.