Gabriele Tarquini on top in tight Friday test session at Paul Ricard

Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini was fastest of all in a closely contested Friday practice session at Paul Ricard, deposing Citroën’s Ma Qing Hua from the top of the time sheets with just minutes remaining, while Honda team-mate Tiago Monteiro was third fastest, with Honda showing increased pace over last week in the first test.

After their struggles last week at the Slovakiaring, the latest compensation weight calculations see Honda drop 40kg of ballast for Paul Ricard, which seems to have favoured the Civic early on in the hot conditions in southern France.

Championship leader José María López was the early leader in the session in his Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, before late improvements saw Zengo’s Norbert Michelisz, Honda’s Tiago Monteiro and Citroën’s Ma Qing Hua take over the top spot, before Tarquini’s time of 1:30.227 put the Italian fastest with under five minutes remaining.

López finished the session fourth after a late improvement, just ahead of the best placed Lada Vesta, driven by Rob Huff.

Norbert Michelisz finished the session as the fastest of the independents’ class drivers in eighth, while Hugo Valente was the top Chevrolet RML driver in tenth overall in his Campos Racing Cruze.

Yvan Muller was out of place in his Citroën in 12th overall, while Rickard Rydell was 13th fastest in the Honda Racing Team Sweden Civic on his first outing at this configuration of the circuit.

The next practice session takes place at 9:00 CET on Saturday.