The first day of term for the new and old boys of the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series saw a field of 22 Dallaras tackling a damp and cold Snetterton in an effort to establish an early pecking order as the pre-season testing ban came to an end.
Despite the mix of experience, however, it was a new boy who emerged on top, as 21-year old James Calado underlined the reason why Carlin Motorsport snapped him up for 2010. The Racing Steps Foundation-backed driver and his Volkswagen-powered car emerged quickest by three-thousandths of a second in the wet morning session - and went faster still in the drier afternoon conditions to end the day firmly at the head of the timesheets.
"It's gone well," Calado said, with some understatement, "I've learned a lot from today, which is the key thing."
Snetterton local Alex Brundle - another F3 newcomer - ran Calado closest on his first outing at the wheel of an International Class car, enjoying his debut with the T-Sport team.
"Snetterton is home and, of course, it's one of my favourite tracks," the son of former F1 stalwart Martin commented, "It's been a good day and we've made a lot of progress."
Carlin, champions in 2008 with Jaime Alguersuari and 2009 courtesy of Daniel Ricciardo, unveiled the latest addition to its driving strength as Brazilian Adriano Buzaid, a race-winner last season with T-Sport, climbed into the team's fifth entry. Buzaid ended his first day with his new team in fourth position, while Carlin's other men - Jean-Eric Vergne, Rupert Svendsen-Cook and Jazeman Jaafar - all claimed top eleven positions, with the Frenchman ending the day second overall behind team-mate Calado. Oli Webb was the fastest Mercedes-powered runner, taking fifth overall on the day for Fortec Motorsport.
T-Sport's National Class signing, Menasheh Idafar, put on a sterling show on his favourite circuit, romping to sixth best time overall in the morning and ninth overall in the afternoon, just ahead of his new team-mate, reigning Formula Ford champion James Cole.
Brazilian Gabriel Dias endured a tough start to his new career with Hitech Racing, as braking problems led to a spin early on and damage to his chassis which kept him off the track for most of the day.
Teams' spokesman Peter Briggs was delighted by the turn-out at Snetterton, heartened by the number and identity of drivers taking to the track.
"We have 50 per cent more cars at our first test this season than last, and that's a great - and very encouraging - result," he noted, "It's fantastic also to see so many international drivers choosing British F3. The prospects are bright for a superb season."
Testing continues at Snetterton today [Thursday], ahead of a two-day session at Rockingham next week.
Leading performances - Snetterton (24 February):
International Class (am/pm)
1m 11.052s 1m 10.428s
1m 11.336s 1m 10.770s
1m 11.055s 1m 12.232s
1m 11.749s 1m 11.057s
1m 11.285s 1m 11.503s
1m 11.442s 1m 12.190s
1m 11.777s 1m 11.996s
1m 11.875s 1m 12.528s
1m 12.008s 1m 12.168s
1m 13.258s 1m 12.290s
1m 12.802s 1m 12.685s
1m 13.841s 1m 12.826s
1m 14.704s 1m 12.966s
1m 13.826s no time
CF Racing Dallara-Mercedes
no time 1m 13.280s
Sino Vision Dallara-Mercedes
1m 14.511s 1m 14.920s
1m 15.109s 1m 17.625s
National Class (am/pm)
Menasheh Idafar T-Sport Dallara-Mugen 1m 11.706s 1m 12.503s
James Cole T-Sport Dallara-Mugen 1m 13.154s 1m 13.104s
Alex Jones West-Tec Dallara-Mugen 1m 14.454s 1m 14.075s
Craig Reiff Litespeed Litespeed-Mugen 1m 14.124s 1m 14.706s
Invitation Class (am/pm)
Pietro Fantin Hitech Dallara-Volkswagen 1m 13.659s 1m 13.325s