Jorg Muller and Andy Priaulx posted the quickest times in free practice for the first European rounds of the World Touring Car Championship season on the streets of Pau.
Muller emerged at the head of the pack during the first session as he posted a quickest time of 1min 23.522secs at the wheel of his BMW Team Germany BMW 320si, putting him ahead of team-mate Augusto Farfus.
Priaulx had looked good for the third quickest time before being demoted to fourth by current champion Yvan Muller, while Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu rounded out the top six from a train of Independent runners – with Marin Colak quickest in seventh overall.
The session was briefly halted after Alex Zanardi went off at Virage and blocked the circuit, with Stefano D'Aste being left with nowhere to go and making heavy contact with the Italian's stricken BMW.
Both cars were left with plenty of damage, while D'Aste's Wiechers-Sport car also dropped oil all over the circuit.
“It was my mistake,” Zanardi said. “I was still taking it easy and lost concentration, I kept on caressing the throttle where I should have braked. I hit the kerbs on both sides and lost control. D'Aste could not do anything to avoid me. It was a big impact and I'm so sorry because I spoiled the start of the weekend for him and myself.”
Later in the session Mehdi Bennani spun at Virage, while Kristian Poulsen clipped the barrier at Courbe du Casino.
The second session saw Priaulx move to the front as he set the quickest time of the day, with a lap of 1min 23.396secs proving good enough for the former champion to outpace Muller by little under two-tenths of a second. Farfus completed an all-BMW top three, while Tom Coronel was an impressive fourth in his petrol-powered SEAT Leon. Menu and Sergio Hernandez completed the top six.
The session was notable for the lack of any of the works SEAT diesels inside the top ten, with Rickard Rydell the fastest of the works drivers but down in 14th place. That was one place behind the quickest of the LADA Sport drivers, as Jaap van Lagen posted an encouraging 13th quickest time for the Russian outfit.
Neither Zanardi or D'Aste were able to take part in the session due to the damage sustained earlier in the day.