Alain Menu was the man to beat in both free practice sessions for the World Touring Car Championship's first Race of Austria, as Chevrolet laid down a marker for the rest of the weekend by dominating proceedings at the Salzburgring.
The first session saw the Swiss driver ahead of teammate and championship leader Yvan Muller by 0.077 seconds. Rob Huff was third, the best part of half a second shy of Menu.
Tom Coronel was the best of the rest in his BMW in fourth, while Alex MacDowall demonstrated the pace of the Chevrolet Cruze around the circuit by going fifth in his bamboo-run car. The Brit finished the session in the gravel, however, bringing and early end to proceedings and the second red flag of the session – the first after Stefano D'Aste had gone off in his BMW.
Aleksei Dudukalo was the fastest SEAT in sixth ahead of the BMW of Franz Engstler and the Chevrolet of Pasquale Di Sabatino. James Nash was ninth in his Team Aon Ford Focus, with Pepe Oriola, who raced at the Salzburgring in last year's European Touring Car Cup, tenth in his SEAT.
Menu again edged out Muller by 0.07 seconds in the second session, but this time Huff was also in the mix and only 0.073 away from Menu – even if the Brit did run through the gravel at the first chicane at one point.
Touring car rookie Di Sabatino used the pace of the Cruze chassis to take the fourth fastest time. He was narrowly ahead of Gabriele Tarquini – the man who hails from the same province in Italy as Di Sabatino. The veteran had been 21st of the 22 runners in the first session in his SEAT, but this time beat MacDowall to prevent a Chevrolet lockout of the top five.
Oriola was seventh ahead of differently-powered SEAT Leon of Tiago Monteiro, with the BMWs of Engstler and Hungarian race-winning hero Norbert Michelisz completing the top ten.
There were two more red flags in the second session. The first came when Darryl O’Young hit the stack of tyres on the inside of turn one, forcing his Special Tuning Racing SEAT to stop in the middle of the chicane. The second came after the BMWs of Gabor Weber and Mehdi Bennani had gone off in seperate incidents.
Qualifying takes place at 14:45 BST.