Clearly still comfortable on the streets of Monaco after last year, Salvador Duran was quick to find his line in the Principality as he set the fastest time in the World Series by Renault's usual group test that precedes a race meeting.
The Interwetten.com driver headed current points leader Giedo Van der Garde (P1 Motorsport) and Marco Bonanomi (Red Devil Team Comtec) at the end of the truncated 45-minute session, enjoying a near three-tenth advantage over the Dutchman.
All 26 drivers took to the track as soon as the pit-lane opened, aiming to get to grips with the unique Monaco circuit, many of them for the first time. Despite the fact that the World Series runners were the first to take to the track this weekend, Duran wasted little time in taking the lead, but soon found that laps were getting quicker and quicker as the session progressed.
French duo Julien Jousse (Tech 1 Racing) and Guillaume Moreau (KTR) both took turns in the lead but, as the drivers grew in confidence, Fabio Carbone (Ultimate Signature) and van der Garde supplanted them, the Dutchman setting the first sub-1min 30secs lap with a 1min 29.859secs effort.
Monaco lived up to its reputation of catching out the unwary or over-confident and claimed potential frontrunner Mikhail Aleshin as its first victim, the Russian clipping the barrier, albeit without damaging his car. van der Garde and Draco's Bertrand Baguette were also caught out by the narrow confines, involving themselves in a minor collision at Rascasse. Again, neither car was damaged, but the track was blocked and the session red-flagged.
"It's a tough circuit, and you can lose it all very quickly," van der Garde noted, "This morning, the car was competitive right from the beginning, although.we've changed the set-up with qualifying in mind. But, with all the rubber that gets laid down during the sessions, the track will just get quicker."
After a brief interruption, the action - and battle for top spot - resumed, with Prema's Alvaro Barba taking the lead for a brief moment, before Duran moved ahead once more, this time lowering the benchmark to 1min 28.362secs.
When the session was halted for a second time - due to Pasquale di Sabatino going straight on at Mirabeau - there wasn't enough time to set faster laps, although the session was restarted for a matter of minutes. Duran thus took the initial honours, ahead of van der Garde, Bonanomi, Moreau and Robert Wickens. The top ten was completed by Barba, Carbone, Baguette, series returnee Fairuz Fauzy and Prema's Miguel Molina.
The field now has the best part of two days off as qualifying only begins at 9am on Saturday morning, with the one and only race scheduled as the warm-up for Sunday's F1 grand prix.
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