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Jose Maria Lopez has begun his home round of the World Touring Car Championship at the Termas de Rio Hondo in style by pacing a tightly-contested free testing session.

A year on from his marvellous WTCC debut when Lopez took a win in the unfancied Wiechers-Sport BMW during a one-off appearance, the current championship leader is the hot favourite around his home circuit in the dominant Citroen C-Elysee.

Even so, this year's event still poses some challenges for Lopez as the layout has been revised to accommodate MotoGP, while the factory Honda team appeared to pose a greater challenge in the session having made steps forward during a recent test.

Indeed, though Lopez led a Citroen 1-2-4 in the order of himself, Yvan Muller and Sebastien Loeb, Honda's Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro were third and fifth, the top three split by just a tenth.

Proteam's Mehdi Bennani led the privateer Honda ranks in sixth in the absence of Norbert Michelisz, who was delayed reaching the circuit. Hugo Valente was the leading Chevrolet driver in seventh position, ahead of Tom Chilton and the LADAs fo Rob Huff and James Thompson completing the top ten


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