Javier Villa kicked off preparations for the 2009 GP2 Series by breaking the lap record during the first official test of the year at Paul Ricard.

After three seasons competing with Racing Engineering, Villa joins Super Nova Racing, whom he currently races for in the Asia Series, for 2009, beginning his stint in style by becoming the first driver to dip below the 1min 12secs mark around the French course.

The Spaniard was the quickest driver in both the morning and afternoon sessions to be just over a tenth faster than the man who replaces him at Racing Engineering, Lucas di Grassi.

The 2007 runner-up made his debut with the reigning champions, who will sport distinctive red and yellow colours this season, at Paul Ricard and made an immediate impression by going second fastest.

In fact, many of the expected title contenders for 2009 featured in the highest positions, with Asia Series championship leader Kamui Kobayashi third quickest with DAMS, ahead of Campos' new signing Romain Grosjean and his ART replacement Pastor Maldonado in fourth and fifth.

With experienced GP2 competitor Andreas Zuber sixth for FMS, it ensured six different teams would feature in the top six positions.

Having been confirmed with the team on the eve of the test, Luca Fillipi signalled his return to Super Nova in seventh place, which, together with Villa, will give the British team a boost ahead of the new season.

Italian counterpart Davide Valsecchi was eighth in the Durango, ahead of fellow sophomore racer Jerome d'Ambrosio who was ninth quickest.

Edoardo Mortara rounded out the top ten to be the best of the many rookies who will compete in 2009, the Italian six positions higher than team-mate Sergio Perez in the new look Telmex Arden team.

Elsewhere, 2007 champions iSport were outside the top ten, Diego Nunes their best representative in 12th, while World Series by Renault champion Giedo van der Garde was down in 18th.

Eyes were also on the fortunes of Ocean Racing Technology, who made their debut with the '09 specification car at the test. Having confirmed two race winners in the shape of Karun Chandhok and Alvaro Parente, it was a tough start for the ex-BCN team, with the latter managing just a single lap and failing to set a time. Chandhok was 19th.

A largely reliable day for the latest specification GP2 machine, the series' technical director Didier Perrin was pleased with how the revised car performed.

"We are very pleased with today's results. They confirm our predictions regarding the gain of performance we were expecting with the new engine. Moreover, we did not suffer from any serious reliability issues. The cars completed a total of 4493 kilometres. Following the teams' request, we will use different track configurations for the remaining testing days.

"Tomorrow will mainly be dedicated to aero mapping and high speed configuration on the 2A track configuration that includes a long straight. And on Friday, we will run on the 2D short track configuration which is the closest to a circuit layout that carries more delicate braking points."

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