Markus Winkelhock recorded the quickest time of the day as bright, sunny conditions welcomed the World Series by Renault to Monaco for the very first time.
Draco driver Winkelhock narrowly edged out points leader Robert Kubica (Epsilon Euskadi) and reigning V6 Eurocup champion Giorgio Mondini (Eurointernational) to head the timesheets in the 40-minute session
The German upped the tempo in the second half of the session, usurping Kubica at the top of the times. The single-seater returnee put in a series of quick laps, each one taking a second off his best time. Kubica and American Colin Fleming kept themselves in the fight, only to see Mondini, who had experienced the Monaco track in last year's FRV6 race, lay down the gauntlet with a lap of 1min 29.012secs and move to the top of the pile.
Remarkably, with just over 30 minutes gone, there had been few incidents of note, and all 30 drivers had managed to keep their cars on the track. However, that was about to change as Patrick Pilet, at that point in possession of the second fastest time, backed into the barrier at Beau Rivage. The stewards immediately began to remove the car from the track, but Pastor Maldonado, following not far behind the Frenchman, was unable to avoid hitting one of the stewards.
The appearance of the red flag brought the session to a halt, allowing emergency services to take the steward, suffering from a hip injury, off the track, and gave the teams a final chance to catch their breath and prepare for the final few minutes of the session. Five minutes remained, giving most of the field one quick lap to try and improve their time and, as the chequered flag was about to be waved, Winkelhock and Kubica jumped back to the head of the list. Mondini, meanwhile, was unable to improve his time, and dropped to third.
Pilet, despite his heavy off, proved good enough to hold on to fourth spot, ahead of Jenzer team-mate Fleming, while Adrian Valles belied his Monaco inexperience by taking sixth. Ryo Fukuda was next up, ahead of one of the field's 'old hands', Enrico Toccacelo. Despite having three F3000 races at the track under his belt, however, the Zolder race winner still approached this first session with caution.
“You can never be sure of anything at Monaco," Toccacelo insisted, "With 30 cars on the track, it is going to be difficult to manage the traffic. It will be easier tomorrow in qualifying, as we'll be separated into two series, but today was hard.”
Damien Pasini and Christian Montanari rounded out the top ten, while the series' three newcomers Alex Lloyd,Mehdi Bennani and Sven Barth occupied slots 24, 27 and 30.
With the session following after the second of two F1 practices, the two Jordan drivers, who were both involved in last year's World Series, took the time to meet up with old acquaintances. Tiago Monteiro gave some advice to Eric Salignon - which proved insufficient to lift the Frenchman above 28th - whilst Narain Karthikeyan had a closer look at the car of his fellow countryman, Karun Chandhok, who ended the day 26th overall.
With the first session over, competitors now have almost two days in which to closely analyse the data acquired in order to prepare the cars for the qualifying sessions, which will be held late on Saturday evening.