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Pantano sets free practice pace

1 January 1901

Giorgio Pantano continued to build on his solid start to the season in Barcelona by claiming top spot in free practice for round two of the GP2 Series in Turkey.

The Italian was fast throughout the half-hour session, setting the best times in every sector overall, and eventually edging out the Piquet Sports duo of Andreas Zuber and Pastor Maldonado. Pantano's ultimate lap of 1min 33.815secs was just three-tenths off the optimum produced by the best split sectors, and left him two-tenths clear of Zuber, and six ahead of Maldonado.

The eventual top three dominated proceedings, despite overcast skies ensuring that the temperature was not optimal for the hard compound tyres being used this weekend. S├ębastien Buemi and Barcelona race winner Alvaro Parente both took turns at the head of the field, but Pantano took control at the halfway mark and was never seriously challenged thereafter, ending the session 1.7secs up on the quickest time in free practice last year.

Further back, both ART drivers were struggling, with Luca Filippi and Romain Grosjean spending time off track as they tried to tame their recalcitrant cars. The Frenchman eventually found a compromise which allowed him to set the fourth fastest time right at the end of the session, but last year's poleman struggled through to the end with little reward for his hard work.

Behind Grosjean, Vitaly Petrov kept his name in the frame by completing the top five, but had series returnee Andy Soucek for company, the Spaniard taking no time at all to settle into Christian Bakkerud's seat at Super Nova. Davide Valsecchi, Bruno Senna, Javi Villa and Barcelona sprint race winner Kamui Kobayashi rounded out the top ten.

The ART boys weren't the only ones struggling either, as BCN debutant Adrian Valles and Durango's Alberto Valerio touched as they tried to share the same corner, and Buemi, Villa and Yelmer Buurman all had big spins as they went over the edge in pursuit of a fast time. Valles, having been in the top ten with FMSI last time out, promptly dropped to very bottom of the times on his debut with Enrique Scalabroni's team.

His replacement at FMSI, Adam Carroll, made a solid return to GP2 action after a winter in A1GP, clocking the 13th fastest time to split Parente and Filippi.

Valerio and Kobayashi also had other reasons to be disappointed with their session, having crossed the finish line twice after the chequered flag to pick up a five-place grid penalties for race one.

With 22 drivers within two seconds of Pantano's time, and with a shower starting just after the session was completed, qualifying promises to be more than a little dramatic.


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