Reigning WTCC champion Jose Maria Lopez topped the timesheet as his Citroen squad took control at the World Touring Car Championship's official test at the Nurburgring Nordschleife.

Lopez led the way as the WTCC grid got to grips with the famous 15-mile circuit, which is set to host its first WTCC round on the 16-17 May, while his Citroen Racing team-mates Sebastien Loeb and Ma Qing Hua made it a French manufacturer 1-2-3.

The defending champion's 8m 38.027s time set the pace around the German track, over two seconds quicker than second place driver Loeb. The former WRC champion swapped places with Ma Qing Hua throughout the test but the French driver was able to hold on to second spot with a 8m 40.517s.

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Ma Qing Hua's progress was hampered when he broke his suspension after hitting a safety barrier, but the Chinese driver was still able to complete the fourth-highest number of laps with 17.

The test was primarily allocated to enable drivers to become familiar with the 170 turns of the prestigious German circuit while allowing teams to try different car set ups in preparation for next month's WTCC race.

"This was our first outing in the Citro?n C-Elys?e WTCC on the Nordschleife, and I loved every lap," Lopez said. "I now understand a little better why everyone talks about it as such a legendary venue. We worked hard to find the right setup and I can't wait to come back for the races. I'm really happy to have clocked the time I did. It gives me confidence."

"We organised our programme to make sure we got as many laps in as we could," Loeb added. "On such a unique circuit, where there is absolutely no margin for error, it was important to get as much practice as possible.

"The track is narrow and the safety barriers are not far away. It feels totally different from any other circuit. I've never seen anything so difficult, even at Le Mans."

Gabriele Tarquini grabbed fourth spot for Honda, while the fourth Citroen driver Yvan Muller rounded out the top five. Campos Chevrolet's Hugo Valente ended the day sixth with ROAL's Tom Chilton in seventh.

Tiago Monteiro, James Thompson and John Filippi completed the top ten with the front-runners were spread out by 14 seconds.

Nordschleife star Sabine Schmitz, who is set to make a one-off WTCC appearance at her home event, ended the day 13th in the Munnich Chevrolet.