Practice 1: Valente right behind Loeb
French drivers shone in the first free practice session that opened the official part of the meeting at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
Sébastien Loeb (Citroën) was the fastest man on track, pleasing his many fans already present at Le Castellet, but the biggest surprise came from Hugo Valente. The young driver from Choisy-le-Roi confirmed again his excellent form, by taking second-fastest at the wheel of the Campos Racing Chevrolet RML keeping behind him López, Chilton and Muller.
The quintet was followed by the Hondas of Monteiro, Tarquini and Michelisz, who performed closely throughout the session. The fastest LADA was James Thompson’s, who closed the session in P11, right in front of team mate Rob Huff. Franz Engstler was fastest among TC2 cars.
In a sunny, windy and chilly morning session, the Citroëns took control from the first moment, with López posting fastest time in 1.31.148, quickly improved by Loeb (1.30.891).
At mid-session took place the only note-worth incident, as Muller surprisingly hit the tire pile marking the inner margin of the chicane in the Mistral straight (Turn 4). There was damage on the front right end of the C-Elysée that stopped on the side, prompting the red flag. As the session resumed, top positions changed little except for Tom Chilton, who posted fifth-fastest time and one lap later, fourth-fastest (1.31.489). Six minutes from the end, Valente signed a stunning 1.31.037, which left him only one tenth from Loeb and in second position.