Charles Pic posted notice of his title intentions by pacing the opening day of World Series by Renault testing in southern Spain, as teams and drivers got to grips with the championship's latest aerodynamic tweaks.
Although only 18 drivers turned out in the warm sunshine, Pic's Tech 1 team was straight on the pace, having joined rivals Ultimate Signature, Prema and Carlin on track the day before, taking advantage of the two hours of testing allowed per year on a circuit not featured on the race calendar. The Frenchman topped the morning timesheets with a lap of 1min 29.859secs that would remain untouched for the remainder of the day.
USR's Miguel Molina and Carlin duo Jaime Alguersuari and Oliver Turvey underlined the benefit of some early track time by setting the initial pace, but RDD member Pic wasted little time in joining them, claiming the provisional fastest lap to end the first hour of running on top.
Having been fifth fastest, behind Turvey, Alguersuari and Draco's Bertrand Baguette, Molina began to up the pace, taking control of the session with an improvement to 1min 30.029secs that survived until the field fitted new tyres towards the lunch break. With conditions suiting him, Pic put in a lap of 1min 29.859secs to move ahead of the Spaniard, while James Walker, now with P1 Motorsport, showed that there was little to compare with prior experience as he jumped up to third.
''I'm really comfortable at P1,'' Walker reported, ''We were already fast at Paul Ricard at the end of 2008 and we were on the pace again today. We're very happy with the new aerodynamics, and the aim now is to get the measure of the car in this configuration. This is very positive.''
2005 season runner-up Adrian Valles, called in by the Epsilon Euskadi team to evaluate its car, was just 0.001secs slower than the Briton, while Alguersuari, in fifth, was the fastest rookie on show.
''This is a new car for me, so I'm working hard to learn as fast as possible,'' Alguersuari commented, ''I'm feeling very relaxed with my new team engineer, James Robinson, who has a lot of experience, particularly in F1.''
The afternoon session was just as intense, with Walker raising the bar with a number of fastest times during a long series of laps. However, as the temperature continued to rise, it proved impossible to repeat those set during the morning, leaving Pic's mark - the only one to duck under 1min 30secs - unrivalled.
As every team continued to work with the new aero package, Baguette and Draco team-mate Marco Barba moved to the top of the session times, having been the only drivers to have fitted fresh tyres towards the end, but neither could beat Molina's second-fastest time from the morning, let alone Pic's benchmark. The Frenchman slotted into third place after lapping a full second off his own earlier pace, while Molina and Fairuz Fauzy rounded out the top five.
Alguersuari was again the fastest of the newcomers, but there was encouragement for the likes of Turvey, Edoardo Piscopo, Chris van der Drift and Greg Mansell, all of whom slotted comfortably into the midfield. The latter, in particular, expects to benefit from being paired with third-year driver Molina, and occupied twelfth spot in each session.
''This year, I'm here to win!'' Molina insisted, ''A few days ago, I didn't have a drive but, especially in this time of economic crisis, I need to put in a strong season to say thank you to my partners. I feel very at home in the USR team. It's a very professional outfit, and everything is in place for me to do well.''