Franco Girolami heads opening practice at Spa-Francorchamps

TCR Europe leader Franco Girolami was the fastest driver in Thursday’s first practice session at Spa-Francorchamps, edging out CUPRA returnee Mikel Azcona.

Girolami pipped Volcano Motorsport’s Azcona to the fastest lap in the closing seconds of the session, ultimately ending up over half a second clear of the Spaniard in his Honda.

“I’m very happy; the entire PSS Racing team did a very good job and the car was very fast,” said Girolami. “But you know, this is only FP1 – all the other drivers will be faster in the other sessions and so we need to improve.

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“I put two new tyres on the car but we don’t know what the other drivers did, that’s the most important point. We also made some changes to the car, and it was very, very good as a result.”

Azcona, who had to miss the previous event due to a calendar clash, was second, giving him hope of reigniting his title challenge to Argentine Girolami, who is just 11 points ahead in the standings.

Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani was the best of the Hyundai Elantra drivers in third, almost nine tenths off the pace, heading up fellow Moroccan and Hyundai racer Sami Taoufik in fourth, the only other driver within a second of the pace.

Brutal Fish Racing’s Isidro Callejas was fifth fastest with a late effort, ahead of team-mate Jack Young in sixth.

Klim Gavrilov was the top Audi driver in seventh, the Russian having briefly been in the top three earlier in the session before he had to pull up at Turn 6 with a puncture later on.

Felice Jelmini put his Hyundai in eighth, whilst the top ten was completed by the Team Clairet Sport Peugeot 308s of Jimmy and Teddy Clairet.

Only 20 drivers are taking part in this weekend’s event after Macedonian Viktor Davidovski and Hungarian Dániel Nagy elected to skip the event.

Nicolas Baert put his Audi in 11th, the Belgian having had a lap time deleted after repeatedly exceeding track limits. His Comtoyou Racing team-mate Tom Coronel also lost a lap time for the same reason and ended the session in 13th.

Second practice is scheduled to get underway at 15:55 BST (16:55 CEST), whilst Friday’s track action sees qualifying at 11:30 BST (12:30 CEST) followed by race one at 17:30 BST (18:30 CEST).

Session results

POS NO NAT DRIVER ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 72 Franco GIROLAMI PSS Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 10 2:31.492
2 96 Mikel AZCONA Volcano Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 10 2:32.005 0.513
3 250 Mehdi BENNANI Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 11 2:32.366 0.874
4 25 Sami TAOUFIK Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 10 2:32.428 0.936
5 26 Isidro CALLEJAS Brutal Fish Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 10 2:32.548 1.056
6 62 Jack YOUNG Brutal Fish Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 10 2:32.554 1.062
7 14 Klim GAVRILOV VRC-Team Audi RS3 LMS TCR 6 2:32.781 1.289
8 44 Felice JELMINI Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 11 2:32.813 1.321
9 21 Jimmy CLAIRET Team Clairet Sport Peugeot 308 TCR 10 2:32.842 1.350
10 20 Teddy CLAIRET Team Clairet Sport Peugeot 308 TCR 10 2:33.167 1.675
11 8 Nicolas BAERT Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 9 2:33.269 1.777
12 17 Martin RYBA Brutal Fish Racing Team Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 10 2:33.472 1.980
13 32 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 9 2:33.508 2.016
14 162 Dušan BORKOVIĆ Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR 10 2:33.521 2.029
15 16 Evgenii LEONOV Volcano Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 9 2:33.674 2.182
16 70 Mat’o HOMOLA Janík Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR 9 2:33.818 2.326
17 10 Niels LANGEVELD Sébastien Loeb Racing Hyundai Elantra N TCR 8 2:33.866 2.374
18 77 Sylvain PUSSIER Team Clairet Sport CUPRA TCR 11 2:34.334 2.842
19 24 Jáchym GALÁŠ Janík Motorsport Hyundai i30 N TCR 9 2:34.515 3.023
20 66 Gilles COLOMBANI Team Clairet Sport CUPRA TCR 11 2:36.703 5.211
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