Mikel Azcona topped the first practice of TCR Europe at Jarama that was disrupted twice by the red flag. The young Spaniard waited until the dying moments of the 30-minute session to set a fast lap and was clocked at 1.38.888 at the wheel of his Volcano Motorsport CUPRA.
Before that, times had been considerably higher as the drivers were getting their bearings with a track that most of them didn’t know and Tom Coronel emerged on top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:41.203.
Then, the session was red flagged twice, the first time after 13 minutes when Enrique Hernando went off at T2, beaching his Peugeot onto the gravel; practice resumed after a few minutes, but immediately Martin Ryba went off at T5 prompting the red flag once again.
When the cars hit the track again, only seven minutes were left of the clock; it was enough to see the lap times dropping quickly.
After Azcona had set the new mark, all the others improved significantly and alternated themselves in the positions behind him.
Eventually, Teddy Clairet posted the second fastest lap, three tenths slower than Azcona’s. Mat’o Homola, Mehdi Bennani, Jimmy Clairet and Dániel Nagy filled the positions between third and sixth, all of them split by tiny gaps.
Jessica Bäckman was seventh fastest ahead of Franco Girolami, Pepe Oriola and Nicolas Baert, while title contenders Daniel Lloyd and Mike Halder ranked in 12th and 15th positions respectively.
Azcona said: “I’m very happy to start the weekend in first position. In these tricky conditions, with wet and dry, I feel very comfortable with this track. The rest of the drivers are still pushing so I have to do the same and I know we can be on the top like at Spa. I know this track - Jarama is an old-school track, so one mistake means you are out of the race. It’s not like the rest of the tracks we are used to driving. You have to be very careful that you don’t go outside the track limits - this is the goal. In Spa, we saw a lot of cars outside the track limits, not on the grass but on the tarmac. Here we don’t have tarmac, but grass and gravel; this is the big difference with the other tracks. If it’s raining tomorrow, you have to be a lot more careful but at the same time go flat out!”
The second free practice will take place at 13:10 local time (CET).
1:38.884 – Mikel Azcona (Volcano Motorsport, CUPRA)
1:39.218 – Teddy Clairet (Team Clairet Sport, Peugeot 308)
1:39.289 – Mat’o Homola (BRC Racing Team, Hyundai i30 N)
1:39.294 – Mehdi Bennani (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS)
1:39.320 – Jimmy Clairet (Team Clairet Sport, Peugeot 308)