BRYAN HERTA (Team USA) topped the charts late on Friday afternoon in the nearly hour-long A1GP practice session at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey with a time of 1min 18.620secs.

Herta, of Valencia, California, sat out the first half of the session to let the track clean up before he went out on slicks and ran 15 laps. It didn't take him long to move up the charts.

"There was no need to learn the track, and I am pleased to be first," he said, "The A1 car is suited to this track. The cold conditions will mean some changes to the settings. Although I enjoy waking up to snow, I just wish this race was in May. I compliment the track for the job done to get the track ready."

A1 Team USA owner RICK WEIDINGER said: "I feel like I'm in Minnesota!"

SALVADOR DURAN (Team Mexico) ran first for much of the session before being overtaken by Herta. JOS VERSTAPPEN (Team Netherlands) was third. He had run first for a while. This was his first time at Laguna, so he said he first had to learn it. Veteran Verstappen said he agreed with Herta that it was more important to learn the car - which Verstappen had from running all season - and then learn the track. Verstappen said there was another two hours Saturday for him to learn Laguna. He said Laguna was not an easy track to learn, blind corners and all. I don't think they could have prepared the track any better than they did.

Fourth and fifth were ALVARO PARENTE (Team Portugal) and NICOLAS LAPIERRE (Team France).

Herta has won twice at Laguna in CART, and has run eleven races on the track - five CART, one American Le Mans Series, two Indy Lights, and one Barber Saab. He hasn't been at Laguna for several years. The track and landmarks have changed a little. The bridge moved, and he thinks visually it's greatly improved. But it is different for him and he's finding new visual cues. Some of the changes made for the FIM MotoGP are good for him - he likes the flatter kerbing. Herta said it took him several laps to get going on the changed track, but then 'the feeling came back'.

Many of the drivers went out on wet tyres. There was a stream running across turn nine, which seemed to get worse as drivers went through it. Herta wanted to save his tyres for the two hours of Saturday practice.

There were a couple of stoppages during the session, and the clock stops in A1 during clean-up. MATT HALLIDAY (Team New Zealand) caused the first red flag, and ANANDA MIKOLA (Team Indonesia) brought out the last - which became the chequered flag.

A1GP has a two hour-long practice session set for Saturday morning, ahead of four fifteen-minute qualifying sessions, starting at 2:15 PT.

Internet access for the media was a problem all day, delaying deadline stories being filed. One possible source of interference was some foreign electronics which interfered with the American technology.....



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