Robert Wickens opened the penultimate round of the World Series by Renault by claiming the fastest time in free practice at Estoril.

Keen to bring an inconsistent season to a close on a high, Wickens recovered from an average showing in the morning session to top the afternoon, and therefore the overall day's, times.

Wickens had tied the top spot with Bertrand Baguette heading into his final lap, but his last effort of 1min 26.996secs was enough to give him the nod in the end.

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"When my engineer told me over the radio that I clocked the same time as Baguette, I did another lap," Wickens admitted, "Even though it is very rare to achieve the identical times in motorsport, I would have preferred to have been alone at the top!

"This is the first time this season I've known the track as it was here that I started off in World Series last season, and it gave me the chance to work on the qualifying set-ups. I've learnt a lot this season, and I'm aiming to win at least one more race before the end of the year."

Even so, Baguette, who was GP2 testing with BCN only yesterday, showed he will be a force to be reckoned with this weekend after going fastest in the morning and then very nearly doing the same in the afternoon.

"Straight away, our car proved to be perfect," explained the Belgian driver, "On the first run, I was the first to be surprised by the time and the gap between the others. This is only the first session, so there's still plenty of room for changes."

Baguette edged Fabio Carbone, who comes into this weekend as one of only two drivers who can deny Giedo van der Garde the 2008 World Series by Renault title. Having scored well in the last eight races, the Brazilian has form on his side, but van der Garde needs just a handful of points to make the title a formality.

The Dutchman was sixth quickest in practice, just behind Salvador Duran and Marco Barba, but ahead of Mikhail Aleshin, Miguel Molina, Charles Pic and James Walker. The only other driver who can prevent van der Garde from the title, Julien Jousse, was just 17th best.

"I need to start this weekend just like any other, without putting myself under anymore pressure," P1 Motorsport driver van der Garde noted, "Today, the pack got ahead of me. I put on a set of fresh tyres at the end of the session but I didn't manage a fast lap. I definitely could have done better than sixth place, even though we still have a little way to go performance-wise."

Elsewhere, series returnees Duncan Tappy and Filip Albuquerque were 18th and 19th respectively for RC Motorsport and Epsilon Euskadi.