Photo: Citroën Racing

Yvan Muller leads the way in Saturday morning practice in France

Citroën Racing’s Yvan Muller was fastest of all in the first practice session on Saturday at the Paul Ricard circuit, leading title rival José María López by two-tenths of a second, with Honda’s Tiago Monteiro their closest challenger.

Muller, 30 points behind López in the championship heading into this weekend, led throughout the session, with his first time of 1:31.151 already faster than López’s best from the session, before Muller found even more time on his second lap to set a 1:30.950.

The bulk of the fast times were set early on in the session, with Tarquini a late improver to put his factory Honda fifth behind Sebastien Loeb’s Citroën.

Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Grégoire Demoustier was the best placed of the independents’ trophy drivers in sixth overall, with the French driver putting on a strong performance to be the best placed of the Chevrolet RML drivers for the first time in any session this season.

Ma Qing Hua was seventh in his Citroën ahead of the best placed Lada, that of Nicky Catsburg in eighth, with Zengo Honda’s Norbert Michelisz and Campos Chevrolet’s Hugo Valente completing the top ten.

Additional tyre stacks have been placed at Turns 2 and 5 following the drivers’ briefing yesterday where a number of drivers questioned the use of the circuit run-off after yesterday’s test. The new tyre stacks caused delays in both José María López’s programmes and Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini as they both made contact with them during the session.

Ma Qing Hua, Nicky Catsburg and Münnich Motorsport driver Stefano D’Aste were all warned for exceeding the track limits, with D’Aste losing his fastest lap, but the Italian would improve again in the final moments to set the 11th fastest time in his Chevrolet.

The second free practice session takes place at 11:30 CET.