The Briton clocked a lap of 1:26.914 that was enough to beat the provisional fastest time set by Yvan Muller at 1:26.957.
In a very close session, Rob Huff and Tom Chilton ranked third and fourth with times of 1:27.172 and 1:27.224, respectively, followed by Nykjær, MacDowall, Monteiro and Michelisz, all within three tenths of a second of the fastest lap.
During the session Stefano D’Aste lost control of his BMW and hit the barrier at Turn 10 but managed to rejoin, James Nash limped back to the pits with a puncture to his front left tyre, while Mikhail Kozlovskiy spun his LADA at Turn 5 and rejoined.
WTCC general manager Marcello Lotti defended the circuit after the gamesmanship which occurred in qualifying on Saturday and led to 12 drivers being penalised.
“There is an article in the International Sporting Code that says it is not permitted to drive too slowly and without any reason – reason means a technical reason or a yellow flag," he said.
"This is what happened: all those drivers were driving around the track at 46kph. It’s really too slow.
"Some journalists have criticised the track and said that in some way the track was at fault. Absolutely not – the track layout is perfect and is probably the best of the traditional touring car circuits.
"In any case, the track is fully licensed by the FIA.”
- Sports & Recreation
- Tom Chilton
- Rob Huff
- Yvan Muller
- Mikhail Kozlovskiy