It may not have been able to give the home crowd what it wanted at Taupo two weeks ago, but Team New Zealand's Jonny Reid went a short way to redeeming himself by setting the pace on day one at Eastern Creek.

The Kiwi posted the fastest time of the first official practice session on Australian soil, as the series' top three teams again occupied the leading positions on the timesheets. New Zealand may have enjoyed P1 at the end of the opening day, but had France and Germany in close attendance, as Loic Duval and Nico Hulkenberg continued their frontrunning pace from round six. Reid's only concern was that Team New Zealand had missed the chance to try the track in all conditions.

"We were on the track quite a bit, but we just made a lot of changes, experimenting with the chassis and trying to gain an advantage," Reid revealed, "I hope that not running in the first [rookie] session does not come back and bite us. It is a bit of a disadvantage not getting that wet run but, in saying that, we do have some information from [fellow Super nova-run team] Germany and we will see what happens if it is wet."

The 'home' team, meanwhile, struggled to pitch itself in the midfield, with Karl Reindler claiming a lowly twelfth spot, behind both the USA and Singapore.

"The car doesn't feel right at the moment," Reindler lamented, "We had a plan for the practice session and we had a list of things we wanted to try, but, from the word go, as we left the pits, we had a problem. I am not sure exactly what the problem was, but the clutch was slipping and we actually had to take the car back into the garage. Once I eventually got out, I had a lot of oversteer everywhere - to the point I have never felt that much oversteer in my life. The guys are down there now, having a look, checking over the car as it almost feels like something has broken, but we will review everything and see how it goes in the morning."

"An hour goes terribly quickly when you are having problems," sighed Team Australia seat holder Alan Jones, "I think every team has had their little problems here and there, but these cars are so very similar, they have only just got to be out of skew a little bit and that is a second or a second-and-a-half and, in this field, that means the difference between first and last."

Behind Reid, Duval and Hulkenberg, Tomas Enge returned from Rolex 24 duty at Daytona to post the fourth fastest time of the session, with Salvador Duran taking fifth for Mexico, the latter - like France and Germany - getting some early data from the rookie sessions, where Sergio Perez was in action.

Sebastien Buemi, back in action for Switzerland following Neel Jani's hand injury, was sixth fastest, with opening session pacesetter Alan van der Merwe (South Africa), Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands), Richard Lyons (Ireland) and Phil Giebler (USA) completing the top ten. Singapore appeared higher up the order than would have been expected on previous form, but owed a lot to the presence of ex-pat Australian Christian Murchison continuing behind the wheel at a circuit he knows well from his junior days.

Team Great Britain was back in 13th, behind Australia, as Robbie Kerr took over from designated rookie Oliver Jarvis in first practice. Jarvis had been recalled to the team to run in the rookie sessions, but Kerr was back behind the wheel for the third run of the day owing to his previous circuit experience. Malaysia and Italy rounded out the top 15, with Canada surprisingly down in 19th after James Hinchcliffe had to sit out the rookie session having reached the end of his 'newcomer' status. India, which had enjoyed a weekend in the sun courtesy of Narain Karthikeyan in New Zealand, returned to earth as Parthiva Sureshwaren managed only 21st spot in the WilliamsF1 test driver's absence.

van der Merwe paced the opening rookie session ahead of Duval and Brazil's Tuka Rocha, with Marcel Fassler (Switzerland) and Michele Rugolo (Italy) giving their teams an early fillip, despite being greeted by a wet circuit. The second session went the way of Team USA rookie Jonathan Summerton, despite the F3 graduate making only his second appearance in an A1GP car - and his first in the rain.

"It was a lot of fun being out there for the first time in the car in the wet," Summerton smiled, "I had to bed brakes in and I got into the rhythm, started going faster and faster and got used to the track, and, in the end, it paid off. It is a very difficult track - I wasn't expecting so much elevation change from the video games. It took a bit to learn but it worked out fine."

Summerton ended the session three-tenths clear of Germany's Christian Vietoris, with Renger van der Zande rounding out the top three for the Netherlands. Fassler and Duval remained fixtures in the top five.

 

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