Morocco’s youngster Sami Taoufik emerged as the fastest driver in the first free practice at Circuit Barcelona Catalunya.
In what was a very calm session, Taoufik was the only driver to complete a lap in less than 1:56, posting a fastest time of 1:55.581 that was more than five tenths faster than John Filippi’s second best.
With a lap of 1:55.115, Jessica Bäckman led the timesheet until halfway through the 30-minute session, when she was demoted to second by Filippi’s 1:56.100. Eventually Taoufik moved ahead during the final stages and his own teammate Nicolas Baert advanced to fourth.
Evgenii Leonov, a Russian transplanted to Spain, proved he has a perfect knowledge of the Catalan circuit and posted the fifth fastest lap in the Volcano Motorsport’s CUPRA.
Lap times were nearly two seconds slower compared to last year’s Qualifying and that was explained by the fact that most of the drivers were working on the race set up rather than looking for the pure performance.
Which also explains why most of the championship’s front runners – with the exception of Baert – haven’t found their place among the top positions: the current leader Daniel Lloyd ranked 15th, while race winners Pepe Oriola, Mike Halder and Julien Briché were sixth, seventh and 12th respectively.
A delighted Taoufik said: “Of course it’s great to start the weekend by being fastest in FP1. I haven’t tested in Barcelona since last year and the last time I did a race here was in the Formula Renault Eurocup, so it’s definitely a change for me, especially in aerodynamics. It was a good result - for the first part of the session we were P3, so we already had a nice idea that we would be among the top, and then we managed to score P1 so it’s not bad! We obviously did a little bit of onboard previous to this and so we already had a tyre setup; we changed the front tyres, but quite a few people did it.”
The second free practice will take place at 17:30 local time (CEST).
1. 1:55.581 – Sami Taoufik (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS)
2. 1:56.100 – John Filippi (Target Competition, Hyundai i30 N)
3. 1:56.115 – Jessica Bäckman (Target Competition, Hyundai i30 N)
4. 1:56.227 – Nicolas Baert (Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS)
5. 1:56.348 – Evgenii Leonov (Volcano Motorsport, CUPRA)