Jonathan Rea is seeking some final improvements on Saturday morning ahead of the opening World Superbike race at Magny-Cours.
Rea was fourth fastest in free practice on Friday behind his Kawasaki team-mate and main title rival Tom Sykes, who is 47 points adrift of the Ulster rider with six races to go.
Welshman Chaz Davies, who dominated race one in the previous round at the Lausitzring in Germany on the Aruba.it Ducati, topped the times by two tenths of a second from fellow Briton Leon Camier (MV Agusta).
Reigning champion Rea, whose best lap of 1m 38.145s left him 0.309 seconds off Davies’ pace, encountered some rear chatter issues with the ZX-10R but is optimistic overall after the opening day of action in France.
“It is quite close in the lap times but I am still getting comfortable on the bike. I had some rear chatter but generally the bike feels good in some sections of the track. I am losing some time in the middle of the lap, which is similar to last year,” he said.
“I feel quite good in the first chicane and even in the next part, but there is definitely room for improvement. I am not sure about the weather forecast for tomorrow, but it will be a shame if it is wet because everybody has done a lot of track time in the dry now. The weather will be what it will be and we will be ready.”
The 30-year-old produced a masterclass in atrocious conditions to win the second race in Germany in heavy rain, taking full advantage when Sykes crashed out in the early stages.
The English rider remounted to finish in 12th place, but Rea’s victory enabled him to re-establish a healthy advantage after a crash of his own in race one at the Lausitzring saw Sykes close the deficit by 20 points.
With 100 points still up for grabs, 2013 champion Sykes remains in contention but the Yorkshireman will need Rea to make some mistakes during the run-in to increase his chances of snatching the title.
Only 0.077 seconds separated the pair on the timesheets on Friday as they prepare to go into Superpole before race one, which is scheduled for a 12 noon start on Saturday. Race two takes place at the same time on Sunday.
Rea will take heart from his performances last year at Magny-Cours, when he notched a brilliant double. A repeat this weekend would see him take a significant step towards retaining the world championship ahead of the final two rounds in Spain and Qatar in October.