Great Britain and France, the two teams forced to play second fiddle to Germany last time out in Malaysia, look set to take their fight to the front in the fifth round of the 2006-07 A1GP series in Indonesia.

Using both their nominated drivers, the squads traded the fastest time in the two opening practice sessions, with British rookie Oliver Jarvis pipping French counterpart Loic Duval to top spot in session one by just 0.099secs, before race regulars Nicolas Lapierre and Robbie Kerr reversed the placings, the Frenchman just 0.048secs quicker. Times throughout the upper half of the field were close, however, with the top 15 teams setting times within one second of the pace.

"It's a very challenging circuit," British F3 ace Jarvis admitted, "especially the third and fourth corners and it pushes the drivers to the limits. I think as a racing driver you adapt and don't notice the temperatures too much. When you are in the car it is fine - it's when you are back out of the car that you feel it more."

Lapierre, meanwhile, will be aiming to notch up France's maiden victory of the 2006-07 campaign this weekend. The outfit thoroughly dominated A1GP last in its inaugural season, claiming 13 triumphs from 22 races including the sprint in Sentul. Incredibly, the French have yet to register their first win of the present campaign, languishing a lowly fifth in the nations' standings following a run of bad luck, but GP2 star Lapierre is confident that run can be broken this weekend.

"Last year I had a very exciting race," the 22-year-old confirmed. "We won the first one and we were second on the grid so I think the car is pretty good here. We just have to work again as it looks like it will be faster than last year. Every track we go to we have to work a little bit harder than last year because everybody is a bit faster, so tomorrow morning we will work hard and see how qualifying goes."

The top two faced strong opposition from Australia, for whom Ryan Briscoe posted third-fastest time in the second session, and South Africa, which saw Alan van der Merwe make a strong return to lie just two tenths shy of Kerr in the same session. Jarek Janis, scheduled to race for the first time for A1 Team Czech Republic this weekend, also showed strongly in both practices, setting the third-quickest time in the first hour and taking fifth spot in the second.

A1 Team Indonesia started its campaign on home soil with Moreno Soeprapto taking eighth position in the 'rookies-only' session, before race regular and local Ananda Mikola claimed 13th in the second outing. Mexican newcomer Sergio Pevez and Ireland's Richard Lyons also made the top ten first time around, while Ho-Pin Tung slotted into 11th on his maiden outing.

"This track is really easy for everybody to learn," acknowledged locally-domiciled Mikola, "so I think it is going to be really close as today we have the top 15 under one second. I think with the new tyres we still need to work a bit, but on old tyres our car was quite competitive.

"However, Nicolas is very quick and it will be really, really difficult to get close. Hopefully tomorrow will be dry again. I think the pole could be something like a high 1min16secs. In Malaysia we were five seconds quicker than last year. Here for qualifying it could be one second quicker, but I don't think we can make five.

"It's quite easy to make a mistake here when you push too hard. We've got to focus on the racing because we know we have good car and set some good lap times last year, so I know I can be up there. I want to be on the podium."

Salvador Duran, last season's Indonesian feature race winner Sean McIntosh and series leader Nico Hulkenberg all featured well up in the open second session, with Tuka Rocha moving Brazil up the order and Phil Giebler completing the top ten for the USA, having had to miss the opening hour due to his experience level.

The weather proved to be typically sultry, and the hot and humid conditions are expected to continue into qualifying, with the strong possibility of storms and heavy rain sweeping over the circuit.

 

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