Rob Huff and Alain Menu set the pace in the early free practice sessions at the Suzuka East circuit this morning, as both sessions were held in wet and slippery conditions.
In the first practice session, initially held in wet conditions, it was Chevrolet’s Huff who set the pace, with lap times improving rapidly towards the end of the half-hour practice as the track began to dry out. Just behind him was Friday pace-setter Menu, a mere 0.040 seconds slower.
In third in the first practice session was SUNRED’s Tiago Monteiro, just ahead of current series leader Yvan Muller.
Robert Dahlgren had another strong session in the Polestar Volvo, setting the fifth fastest time 0.627 seconds slower than Huff. However the Swede caused the only red flag of the session when he went into the gravel, meaning he could only complete 9 laps and was not allowed to improve his time having received assistance to exit the gravel.
Former World Champion Gabriele Tarquini was sixth, with the top Yokohama Driver’s Trophy entrant Darryl O’Young jsut behind in seventh, 0.697 seconds off the pace.
Making his debut this weekend, Toshihiro Arai could only manage 18th in the fourth works Chevrolet, whilst Hiroki Yoshimoto was 21st and Charles Ng 22nd.
The second practice session saw much of the same, with the Chevrolets once again setting the pace. However this time the order was Menu-Huff-Muller and the closest challenger was Fredy Barth, who improved his times dramatically from the opening session to go fourth.
Monteiro was fifth fastest in the second session, whilst Arai made it four Chevrolet Cruze’s in the top six with his 55.073 seconds effort.
The only significant incident during the session came when Fabio Fabiani spun into the gravel and caused the session to be red-flagged with three minutes to go. This meant that Gabriele Tarquini was unable to improve on his 19th fastest time, with Tom Coronel (21) and Robert Dahlgren (22) also well down the order.