Rob Huff braved the rain at Donington Park to top the first of two free practice session at the Midlands track on the World Touring Car Championship's first visit to the track.
Through heavy rain greeted the WTCC field when the rolled out of the pitlane for the start of the half hour session the weather did little to alter the pattern of 2011 and the three RML Chevrolet Cruze's soon established themselves at the top of the timesheets.
Though rain continued to fall the times fell gradually during the session, Huff leading the battle against the clock as he improved from 1:54 after the first flying laps around the full Donington Grand Prix to the 1:41.058 that he ended the session with.
Only RML teammate Yvan Muller was able to beat Huff, scoring the fastest time on two separate occasions, only for the Briton to eclipse it again, the last with only two minutes of the session remaining.
Alain Menu in the third Cruze suffered slightly in the slippery conditions, one of many drivers to run wide, the Swiss driver's main digression from the tarmac coming at the Melbourne Hairpin.
Another to struggle in the conditions was Colin Turkington. Having only been confirmed at the Wiechers–Sport team in the week before the race the former BTCC champion struggled for pace, languishing down towards the foot of the 21 car order. When he did improve his time – initially lumping to 11th fastest – he promptly ran into the gravel on the outside of Redgate, the BMW beached firmly, ending his session early.
Though many other drivers – Fabio Fabiani, Tiago Monteiro, Kristian Poulsen and Norbert Michelisz included, had their own trips through the gravel Turkington remained the only man to be forced out of the session early after an off.
Montiero, despite a few ragged moments, broke the SEAT domination to claim the third fastest time ahead of Robert Dahlgren and Pepe Oriola. Alain Menu finished sixth fastest, Tom Coronel was the best of the BMW's down in eighth, nearly 2.5 seconds away from Huff's pace.
First free practice results:
|1||Robert Huff||Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:51.058||15|
|2||Yvan Muller||Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:51.306||0.248||12|
|3||Tiago Monteiro||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||1:52.299||1.241||15|
|4||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar||Volvo C30 Drive||1:52.311||1.253||14|
|5||Pepe Oriola||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||1:52.748||1.690||14|
|6||Alain Menu||Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:53.152||2.094||13|
|7||Michel Nykjaer||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||1:53.348||2.290||12|
|8||Tom Coronel||ROAL||BMW 320 TC||1:53.467||2.409||14|
|9||Franz Engstler||Engstler||BMW 320 TC||1:53.523||2.465||15|
|10||Kristian Poulsen||Engstler||BMW 320 TC||1:53.651||2.593||15|
|11||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam||BMW 320 TC||1:53.866||2.808||17|
|12||Fredy Barth||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||1:54.156||3.098||12|
|13||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:54.503||3.445||15|
|14||Gabriele Tarquini||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||1:55.063||4.005||10|
|15||Javier Villa||Proteam||BMW 320 TC||1:55.437||4.379||13|
|16||Norbert Michelisz||Zengo||BMW 320 TC||1:55.493||4.435||14|
|17||Colin Turkington||Wiechers||BMW 320 TC||1:55.679||4.621||7|
|18||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:56.389||5.331||13|
|19||Aleksei Dudukalo||Sunred||Sunred SR Leon 1.6T||1:56.463||5.405||15|
|20||Fabio Fabiani||Proteam||BMW 320si||2:07.256||16.198||12|