A shortage of practice laps in Malaysia this morning failed to prevent A1GP rookie Robert Wickens from cracking the top ten come the afternoon, as Team Canada made an encouraging start to its Malaysian weekend.

The Champ Car Atlantic front-runner will become only the fourth driver to race for his home outfit in the nation vs nation series, and he found his initial practice laps curtailed by a problematic steering rack. Limited to just ten tours, the 18-year-old nevertheless succeeded in setting the twelfth-fastest lap time early on, and he would take almost four full seconds off that effort during the hour-long afternoon session to vault up the order into eighth spot, 1.5 seconds shy of the leading pace.

"Today's been pretty good," the Toronto native reflected on day one of his maiden visit to Sepang. "We had a problem with the steering rack in the rookie session which basically meant I couldn't turn the car, so we lost a lot of track time. The team rebounded really well, though, and I'm extremely satisfied to have been running in the top ten the whole of this afternoon's session.

"We made improvements to the car in the limited time we had, and despite going out on fresh tyres at the start of the session I set my fastest lap on the second-to-last lap which shows the improvements we've made. I'm really looking forward to Saturday's practice and qualifying. This area is famous for monsoons, so weather could be another factor to contend with, but I'm confident of a strong showing."

Team Canada has a mixed record around the Herman Tilke-designed Sepang International Circuit - home to the Malaysian Grand Prix since 1999 - with two top ten finishes from four races but neither of them better than fifth place.

The squad has yet to begin a race from higher than tenth on the grid in 2007/08, and also is yet to trouble the scorers in A1GP's third season to-date, two uncomfortable statistics Wickens is clearly aiming to rectify in Kuala Lumpur. Team manager Simon Cayzer was certainly satisfied with his young charge's early efforts, as the 2006 Formula BMW USA Champion gets ready to make his racing bow in the series following on from his rookie debut six weeks ago in the Czech Republic, when he sensationally fired the Canadian entry to the top of the timesheets in the second half of practice.

"We had some problems this morning which cost us some time," Cayzer affirmed, "but the second practice session went well. We have some more fine-tuning to do, but overall we're relatively happy with our set-up start. Robert did a good job today despite being quite new to the car and having never driven the circuit before - he seems quite a cool, calm customer!"

 

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