BMW driver Augusto Farfus made the perfect start to the first World Touring Car Championship event on Japanese soil by setting the pace during Friday testing at the Okayama circuit.
As drivers got used to their new surroundings at the former home of the Formula One Pacific Grand Prix, Farfus was the early pace-setter at the wheel of his BMW 320si but having been knocked down the times as others improved, he posted the quickest time of 1min 38.371secs to end the day on top of the pile.
“It was the first few laps for everybody so we are all getting used to the circuit,” the Brazilian said. “The overall grip was quite low so we will be learning a lot over the next few days. The first few laps were ok but we are still quite far from where we want to be.
“I think everyone has had problems with the grip, we have struggled with understeer, and then oversteer sometimes so the car is very inconsistent. Once we get the grip sorted out I think it will be a really nice track.”
Farfus ended the session at the head of a BMW 1-2, with current champion Andy Priaulx slotting into second place.
Priaulx's best time was just 0.132secs behind Farfus, with the Guernseyman completing more laps than anyone else, and he said he was happy with progress so far.
“I enjoyed our 30 minute test this morning,” he reflected. “The track really flows and in a way reminds me of Brno. The car also feels good despite the fact I am carrying 66 kilos of ballast. I suspect tomorrow the SEATs will be quicker, but my car is working well here.”
Those SEATs locked out positions three-five on the times, with Gabriele Tarquini the best of the bunch with a lap just two-hundredths of a second behind Priaulx.
Rickard Rydell was fourth quickest in the second of the diesels, while points leader Yvan Muller slotted into fifth, although the Frenchman admitted he was concerned about tyre-wear around the 3.7km circuit.
“It is a very nice track but it is very stressful for the tyres,” he said. “It will be hard for us with the weight, because after three laps the grip is not there. This is something we need to sort out for the races.”