Yvan Muller sets the benchmark in WTCR practice one

Yvan Muller was fastest in the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup practice session of the weekend, setting a benchmark lap time of 01:19.747 around Circuit Pau-Arnos.

Jean-Karl Vernay was quickest out of the blocks however, going fastest of all during the first round of lap times, before then slashing his own first attempt by over three seconds. 

Yann Ehrlacher then outdid his compatriot, but only just, beating Vernay’s time by a mere three hundredths of a second. At this point, meanwhile, Mikel Azcona had a massive spin at turn one, luckily avoiding contact with the barriers. 

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Ehrlacher’s stablemate Santiago Urrutia went quicker still, with a lap time of 01:20.516. But, the two Cyan Racing drivers were quickly split by Honda’s Esteban Guerrieri.

The second of the Honda drivers, Nestor Girolami, then returned to the pits with a left-front puncture. Shortly afterwards, Urrutia was overhauled at the top of the table by Audi’s Frederic Vervisch – the Belgian driver taking three tenths of a second out of anybody else – with a lap time of 01:20.201. 

Vervisch’s Audi stablemate Nathanael Berthon then joined him at the sharp end of the order, moving up to third. 

As drivers sought increasingly more lap time, the unforgiving, close-quarters nature of the circuit drew plenty of mistakes out of them, with Vernay taking a trip into the turn three gravel trap. Jordi Gene also had a moment on the grass later on in the lap, following his return to the series after missing the last round in Czechia. 

Eventually though, one driver did manage to find some extra time from a clean lap after a set-up change. Norbert Michelisz was the driver to do so, going fastest by just two hundredths of a second.

In fact, Hyundai found a whole load of extra pace, as Vernay then became the first driver to break the 1 minute 20 seconds barrier with a lap time of 01:19.873.

Ehrlacher then rose up the order too, going second-quickest for a short time before falling down to third at the hands of team-mate Muller, who went fastest of all on a fresh set of tyres. 

Thed Bjork in the third Lynk & Co quickly followed suit and shot up to second place on the time sheets behind Muller, with a lap time of 01:19.859. 

As the session drew to a close, Luca Engstler had a big moment in the latter sector of the circuit, ironically wiping out a collection of Liqui Moly sponsor hoardings.

With that, Muller was declared fastest ahead of team-mate Bjork and compatriot Vernay.

A late flurry of laps from Honda saw Guerrieri move up to fourth and Attila Tassi up to fifth, ahead of Urrutia and Ehrlacher to complete the Cyan Racing quartet in sixth and seventh. 

Former pace-setter Michelisz wound up in eighth, while Vervisch remained quickest of the Audi drivers in ninth. Azcona rounded out the top ten. 

Free practice two gets underway shortly at 13:00 CEST (12:00 BST).

Session results

POS NO NAT DRIVER ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME GAP
1 100 Yvan MULLER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 22 1:19.747
2 11 Thed BJÖRK Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 24 1:19.859 0.112
3 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR 22 1:19.873 0.126
4 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 23 1:19.963 0.216
5 9 Attila TASSI ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 26 1:19.971 0.224
6 12 Santiago URRUTIA Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 22 1:20.053 0.306
7 68 Yann EHRLACHER Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR 22 1:20.166 0.419
8 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 20 1:20.175 0.428
9 22 Frédéric VERVISCH Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 22 1:20.201 0.454
10 96 Mikel AZCONA Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 25 1:20.335 0.588
11 29 Néstor GIROLAMI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 23 1:20.340 0.593
12 8 Luca ENGSTLER Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR 26 1:20.397 0.650
13 17 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 23 1:20.424 0.677
14 32 Tom CORONEL Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 29 1:20.430 0.683
15 79 Rob HUFF Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 18 1:20.453 0.706
16 18 Tiago MONTEIRO ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR 24 1:20.557 0.810
17 16 Gilles MAGNUS Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 17 1:20.604 0.857
18 3 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR 21 1:20.665 0.918
19 28 Jordi GENÉ Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 23 1:20.881 1.134
20 55 Bence BOLDIZS Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 26 1:21.070 1.323
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