Huff heads Tarquini and Muller in the opening practice session at Monza

Chevrolet's 2011 World Touring Car Championship runner-up Rob Huff set fastest time in the first free practice session at Monza's opening round of the 2012 season

Huff heads Tarquini and Muller in the opening practice session at Monza

The Briton was in control at the top of the timing screens for the majority of the half-hour session. Huff's quickest lap of 1m58.679s was a clear 0.241s up on SEAT star Gabriele Tarquini in his Lukoil Racing Leon.

As expected from their formidable pace in Thursday's test, Huff's RML Chevrolet team-mates were also at the fore. Reigning world champion Yvan Muller took third, just 0.001s clear of Swiss Alain Menu.

Norbert Michelisz's Zengo Motorsport BMW did a respectable job in fifth. The Hungarian staged a competitive showing at Monza in 2011, and while not carried away with his performance this morning, he was encouraged that there was more performance to come from his BMW 320 TC.








"It is difficult to read too much into the performance from free practice one, but the good thing is we do not have the optimum set-up yet," said Michelisz.

"We have been experimenting on Thursday, and the idea was not to find the ideal set-up for Monza, but just to collect data. Thursday was also the first time since Macau that I drove the car."

The session was red-flagged to allow marshals to attend to oil laid around the last two sectors. SUNRED SEAT runner Pepe Oriola had a wild trip across the grass at the Ascari chicane, while Arena Ford's WTCC debutant Tom Chilton had an even hairier moment at the same spot, and did well to keep his Focus away from the wall.

"The oil was bad in the Lesmos, as well as at Ascari," explained Chilton of his half spin. "When I lost it on the oil I flat spotted my tyres, so unfortunately I am stuck with them now for the whole two sessions."

The order of the top six at the time of the stoppage was Huff, Tarquini, Muller, Menu, Michelisz and Oriola. The session was restarted with six minutes remaining, although few drivers would improve on their times.

Exceptions were Swedish Chevrolet veteran Rickard Rydell and SUNRED's Tiago Monteiro, who jousted for sixth. Rydell eventually emerged ahead.

Chilton's Arena team-mate James Nash also moved up the order to eighth, before being bumped to a solid tenth at the session's end.

The restart proved relatively incident free, although Muller had a minor moment running down the escape road at the first chicane, and Darryl O'Young spun his Special Tuning SEAT at the second chicane.

Free Practice 1 - Results: Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Rob Huff Chevrolet 1m58.679s 2. Gabriele Tarquini SUNRED SEAT 1m58.920s + 0.241s 3. Yvan Muller Chevrolet 1m59.228s + 0.549s 4. Alain Menu Chevrolet 1m59.229s + 0.550s 5. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 1m59.565s + 0.886s 6. Tiago Monteiro SUNRED SEAT 1m59.693s + 1.014s 7. Rickard Rydell Chevrolet Sweden 1m59.795s + 1.116s 8. Pepe Oriola SUNRED SEAT 1m59.866s + 1.187s 9. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 2m00.065s + 1.386s 10. James Nash Arena Ford 2m00.195s + 1.516s 11. Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet 2m00.403s + 1.724s 12. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 2m00.432s + 1.753s 13. Gabor Weber Zengo BMW 2m00.495s + 1.816s 14. Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW 2m00.541s + 1.862s 15. Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW 2m00.803s 2.124s 16. Darryl O'Young Bamboo Chevrolet 2m00.878s + 2.199s 17. Andrea Barlesi SUNRED SEAT 2m00.952s + 2.273s 18. Tom Chilton Arena Ford 2m01.062s 2.383s 19. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 2m01.065s + 2.386s 20. Charles Ng Engstler BMW 2m01.100s + 2.421s 21. Aleksei Dudukalo SUNRED SEAT 2m01.410s + 2.731s 22. Pasquale Di Sabatino Bamboo Chevrolet 2m02.052s + 3.373s 23. Isaac Tutumlu Proteam BMW 2m02.358s + 3.679s 
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Menu keeps Chevrolet on top in the second WTCC practice session at Monza

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