Germany’s Luca Engstler left it late before topping Touring Car Cup’s opening practice session at Vallelunga ahead of long-time leader Klim Gavrilov (Russia).
The reigning double TCR Asia champion is one of the favourites for gold this weekend and proved it by lapping 0.191s quicker than Russian TCR front-runner Gavrilov (Audi) who initially traded fastest times with Gilles Magnus.
Belgium’s TCR Europe star looked set to finish third before he was usurped by season-long rival Matej Homola (Slovakia). Just 0.006s separated the duo, who collectively finished half-a-second shy of Engstler’s 1m40.928s benchmark.
Tom Coronel was a mainstay of the top-three throughout but lost two places late on when both Hyundais improved. The Dutchman thus ended up fifth after getting the better of John Filippi (France) whose Cupra was one of five manufacturers to feature inside the top-eight.
Further back, Norbert Kiss (Hungary) was best placed of the Alfa Romeo runners in 12th, while Julius Adomavicius (Lithuania) took the sole Volkswagen to 13th.
Rory Butcher (Great Britain) was 17th fastest for MG.
Second practice begins at 14:35 today.