Giedo Van der Garde got off to the start as the 26 brand new World Series by Renault cars took to the track at Monza for the first pre-race test day of the 2008 season, the P1 Motorsport driver claiming best time in both sessions.

With two three-hour sessions at their disposal, the field had ample time to get to grips with their new mounts on the ultra-quick Monza, but it was the Dutchman who proved to be fastest out of the box, with consistently quick times on both old and new tyres.

"We've done a lot of work on our race set-up, and everything's going great so far," van der Garde confirmed, "Our car is performing well - and consistently, which is the most important thing. Of course, these are only tests, but this proves that we're moving in the right direction and that we are a force to be reckoned with."

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van der Garde's times of 1min 36.484secs and 1min 36.016secs, from the morning and afternoon sessions respectively, proved to be just too much for the rest of the field, which was headed by Prema's Alvaro Barba and Draco's Bertrand Baguette.

Barba ended the day in confident mood after what he felt had been a strong day for Prema, spent working on developments that the team had introduced in a stop-over test on the way to Italy.

"We were at Paul Ricard earlier in the week, and found some important things that helped us find an effective set-up," the Spaniard revealed, "That work has obviously paid off as we were in the leading group today. I think everyone will go faster still tomorrow, not least my team-mate Miguel Molina, who started with a different set-up today."

Baguette also hit his stride from the off, continuing the good form from the pre-season test in Barcelona. Just like all the other leading contenders, the International Draco driver split the day into two parts to gain as much data as possible for the rest of the weekend.

"We were on old tyres for most of the day but, at the end, we focused on qualifying, because the conditions will be the same tomorrow," he revealed, "The car is well balanced, and I managed to repeat my time consistently, which is ideal. The first day of the championship is always important. You wonder where you're going to finish, and it's important for your confidence to get off to a good start."

Julien Jousse, running with reigning champions Tech1 Racing, and the second Draco car, in the hands of Marco Barba, rounded out the top five and, for Jousse, the performance helped to alleviate some of the pressure of being billed as one of the potential championship favourites.

"It was a good afternoon's work, and we tried out lots of things," the Frenchman confirmed, "There are still things we need to find out about the car, particularly on this circuit, which requires a very specific aerodynamic set-up, but I like the track and, last year, clocked some good times here in my first race. This year, I have to build on that and start the season well, but we're pretty relaxed - we're not putting any pressure on ourselves."

Fabio Carbone took sixth spot for series newcomer Ultimate Signature, with Marco Bonanomi - fresh from his first GP2 Asia victory - Pasquale di Sabatino, Marcos Martinez and Mikhail Aleshin completing the top ten.

The Russian's Carlin team-mate, Robert Wickens, was down in 19th after setting the pace in the final pre-season test, while Molina was only four spots better off. Jousse's team-mate, teenager Charles Pic, was 22nd.

German driver Julian Theobald, who will race alongside eleventh-placed James Walker at Fortec Motorsport, took 25th spot after becoming the final addition to the driver line-up.