Reigning WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea was well inside the Magny-Cours lap record on his third lap of the opening free practice at Magny-Cours and continued on to set the fastest time of the morning but was chased hard by Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes.
Rea’s opening salvo was a 1’37.800 on his first exit and then pitted for a while before coming out to set a 1’37.621. Sykes, who departs KRT for parts unknown at the end of this season, set a 1’37.724 just before a crash from Tati Mercado brought out the red flags.
When the track re-opened for 90s, Rea shot out of the blocks in the manner of a greased weasel to bang in a 1’37.202 which was enough to open half a second over Sykes, who set a 1’37.724 with his last effort.
Pata Yamaha’s Michael van der Mark leapt up to third place with his last run and scraped the 1’37s barrier with a 1’38.110. Team-mate Alex Lowes was in close proximity – having had a potential third-place lap ended by the red flag - and set a 1’38.226. Lorenzo Savadori’s Milaukee Aprilia nabbed fifth place with a 1’38.278.
Xavi Fores spent much of the session in the top five but lost out in the final, one-lap thrash slipping back to seventh but was still top Ducati. Chaz Davies ended his session in seventh with a 1'38.441 while it was disaster for Marco Melandri who didn't complete a lap as his Panigale spent most the session on a ramp.
Hometown hero Loris Baz finished in eighth with Eugene Laverty and Jordi Torres completing the top ten. Leon Camier was 11th.