Pastor Maldonado set the early pace as World Series by Renault testing opened in Barcelona, but the Venezuelan had to survive an afternoon assault from nearest rival Colin Fleming to keep the honour heading in to day two.
Fleming pushed Maldonado closest in the morning session, although the Draco man was 0.7secs faster than his Carlin rival, before turning the tables and heading the 29-car field in the afternoon. The American was also kept on his toes, however, and his challenger was slightly unexpected, as series rookie Andy Soucek backed up his strong 2005 testing form with third and second places in the day's two sessions.
The new Spanish F3 champion was half a second slower than Fleming in the spread-out morning session, before raising his game to get within 0.1secs after lunch. Maldonado was only seventh fastest in the second session, but had done enough early on to retain top spot at the end of the day, while Soucek's performance would suggest that the Interwetten team will pick him to partner Eric Salignon, despite also having Carlos Iaconelli on its books prior to snapping up the available Frenchman
Although all 30 cars were present in Spain, only 29 managed to record a time as James Rossiter was sidelined by a prior engagement with the Honda F1 team. While the Briton completed his programme in Italy, several rivals established themselves as potential frontrunners by featuring in the top ten in both sessions.
Maldonado, Fleming and Soucek aside, Davide Valsecchi, Mihael Aleshin and Alx Danielsson all did the double, while Patrick Pilet, Robbie Kerr, Tomas Kostka, Borja Garcia, Milos Pavlovic, Salignon, Ben Hanley and Steven Kane all took turns in the top third, with Britain well represented despite Rossiter's absence.
The test gave the 15 teams a chance to test their cars with their new aero package for the first time, having not been on track since last December, and there were the inevitable teething problems. Christian Montanari, in particular, struggled with a recalcitrant gearbox in the morning, then electronic gremlins after lunch. The San Marino driver climbed to 13th spot in the later session, having been stone last earlier on. There were also excursions for Maldonado, Soucek, Alvaro Parente, Alvaro Barba, the latter trio returning with damage to bodywork and suspension.
There were also a few new faces to get accustomed to, with late signings Hayanari Shimoda, Pascal Kochem and Tor Graves in action for Victory Engineering and Eurointernational respectively. Given his greater experience of more powerful machinery, it was little surprise that Shimoda emerged the fastest of the trio, taking 15th in the afternoon session after opening with 18th before lunch.
Most teams eschewed the chance to take new tyres, preferring to learn their revised machines on used rubber, although a few fitted the better option late in the day.
Leading performances (22 March) - Barcelona:
Draco 1min 26.673secs 1min 28.653secs
Carlin 1min 27.385secs 1min 27.750secs
Interwetten.com 1min 27.858secs 1min 27.851secs
GD 1min 29.798secs 1min 27.893secs
Epsilon Euskadi 1min 28.756secs 1min 28.006secs
Comtec 1min 28.119secs 1min 28.666secs
Carlin 1min 28.296secs 1min 28.263secs
Cram 1min 28.511secs 1min 28.882secs
KTR 1min 29.757secs 1min 28.536secs
Draco 1min 30.987secs 1min 28.664secs
RC 1min 29.303secs 1min 28.704secs
Cram 1min 29.184secs 1min 29.019secs
Interwetten.com 1min 29.054secs 1min 29.419secs
Prema 1min 49.145secs 1min 29.091secs
Epsilon Euskadi 1min 29.302secs 1min 29.803secs
Jenzer 1min 29.309secs 1min 30.650secs
Victory 1min 30.287secs 1min 29.668secs
KTR 1min 30.698secs 1min 29.921secs
Victory 1min 29.957secs 1min 30.151secs
Prema 1min 30.024secs 1min 30.578secs
Pons 1min 31.068secs 1min 30.087secs
Tech 1 1min 30.207secs 1min 31.792secs
RC 1min 30.394secs 1min 30.215secs
GD 1min 31.123secs 1min 30.245secs
Tech 1 1min 30.915secs no time
Eurointernational 1min 30.954secs 1min 31.202secs
Jenzer 1min 31.409secs 1min 31.003secs
Comtec 1min 32.231secs 1min 32.964secs
Eurointernational 1min 35.634secs 1min 33.634secs
Pons no time no time
[Times displayed AM/PM, with fastest in bold]