The inaugural GP3 Series officially got underway in Barcelona with 30 minutes of practice dominated by the RSC Mucke Motorsport team.
Dutch driver Renger van der Zande put his early stamp on the series by setting the pace from beginning to end at the Circuit de Catalunya. The F3 graduate eventually posted a time of 1min 38.664secs and finished just ahead of team-mate Nigel Melker in an impressive showing from the Ralf Schumacher-led race team.
It certainly wasn't plain sailing for the Dutch driver, however. With ART's Esteban Gutierrez hot on his heels and just six minutes remaining, van der Zande was shown a black and orange flag for a broken mirror he picked up earlier in the session. However, a last-gasp effort from Gutierrez was unable to match the flying Dutchman and the Mexican had to settle for third.
With fresh rubber on his Status GP car, Robert Wickens moved towards the top of the timesheets and finished the session in fourth spot, four-tenths ahead of Manor Racing's James Jakes and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, the latter an impressive showing from the GP3 newcomer.
Despite ending his session prematurely deep in the gravel after just five laps, Addax Team driver Mirko Bortolotti managed to finish the session in seventh spot, while eighth went to the Italian's team-mate Pablo Sanchez Lopez. ART's Alexander Rossi also had an afternoon to forget, ending his session stranded out on track and ninth in the final timings. Dean Smith rounded out the top ten for Carlin.
MW Arden's top driver was Michael Christensen in eleventh, just ahead of the newly signed Addax Team driver Felipe Guimaraes. Simon Trummer recovered from an early bump in the pits with his team-mate to bring his car home in 13th, but Atech CRS GP's Oliver Oakes had a bigger nightmare, taking only a brief part in the session after mechanical issues meant he failed to finish the first lap.
The first ever GP3 Series qualifying session takes place at 0845hrs local time on Saturday morning.