A1 Team Great Britain topped the timesheets in the second of Friday's two free practice sessions at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, as the eighth round of the World Cup of Motorsport got underway in warm and sunny weather conditions in Mexico City.

Oliver Jarvis, who took the British team's maiden A1GP victory at the same circuit last year, was the man to beat in the afternoon, clocking a 1min 21.431secs lap around the 4.08km circuit. Having set the pace early on in the hour, Jarvis improved on his lap time with 15 minutes of the session remaining, reclaiming the top spot and demoting current title leader Switzerland's Neel Jani to second.

"The surface will get better as the weekend goes on and more rubber gets laid down, giving us more grip," Jarvis noted, "I'm delighted to be at the top of the times. We're very close to Switzerland, but that's to be expected, as Neel Jani's having a great time at the moment. His confidence is very high and they've got the car sorted. It's going to be very close come qualifying tomorrow."

Team GBR's position was momentarily under threat from a late charge by New Zealand's Jonny Reid, but the Kiwi's time was deleted because he cut the tight chicane leading into the Peraltada corner, moving him down the order to sixth overall. Reid was not alone, as many drivers committed the same offence throughout both practice sessions, causing their lap to be ruined and their times deleted.

Jani's Swiss car was closely followed by Ireland's Adam Carroll in third, ending a strong day for the Irish squad after rookie Niall Quinn had posted the second fastest time in the 'newcomers' session. Carroll's performance will also raise morale in the team after a couple of unusually disappointing races.

Jeroen Bleekemolen was fourth quickest in the Dutch car, while South Africa's Adrian Zaugg finished the day fifth overall, but the afternoon's session was incredibly close, with the top 14 drivers separated by just over a second.

Team Italy led the way in the opening session, with new driver Davide Rigon making an instant impression. The F3000 driver was getting his first taste of an A1GP car in the rookie session, but made a strong impression, lapping nearly three tenths quicker than anyone else.

No driver has topped the rookie session in their maiden A1GP meeting since the USA's Jonathan Summerton achieved the feat on his debut at Eastern Creek in 2007. Rigon, in fact, completed two laps that would have been good enough for the quickest time, and his performance marked the first time that Italy, currently 19th in the standings, had been fastest in an A1GP practice session all season. Rigon, however, will hand over to Edoardo Piscopo for the rest of the weekend, but is targeting more rookie sessions later in the season.

"I felt great being in the Italian team and it went very, very well," he said of his performance, "The course was bumpy. I have never driven outside of Europe and it was a very different experience. I'd love to do Shanghai and Brands - and maybe some races next year too. Everybody was pushing very hard and I've shown I can be quick in the car now. Maybe I could be quicker in the car if I have another go!"

Quinn was second quickest for Ireland, which was his best showing in the three rookie sessions he has competed in this season and put him ahead of South Africa's Wesleigh Orr and Frenchman Nicolas Prost.

David Mart?nez was fifth on his return to the Mexican line-up, placing ahead of Canada's Daniel Morad, Brazilian Felipe Guimar?es, Pakistan's Adam Khan - who has given up his GP2 Asia campaign to focus on A1GP - Indonesia's Satrio Hermanto and Australia's John Martin in the top ten. British newcomer Duncan Tappy, standing in for James Winslow this time around, was 13th fastest, putting him behind the Czech Republic's Filip Salaquarda and 'Swiss miss' Rahel Frey.

It was the first time the A1GP drivers had experienced the revised layout of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, with the shorter version proving about three seconds quicker than last season's layout.

Friday was the first time that the A1GP drivers had experienced the revised layout of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, with the shorter version proving about five seconds quicker than last season.

In addition to adding a chicane just before the final high-speed Peraltada corner to aid overtaking and improve safety, three corners will also be missed out in the middle of the course to keep the lap time and race lengths at roughly the same distance as last year's, using one of the alternate layouts of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Turn four has now become a left-hand turn instead of a right-hander and the track rejoins the original course at turn nine, making the circuit length 4.08km, instead of the 4.42km it was last season. The track is renowned for its bumpy surface, and turn four seemed to cause the most problems for the drivers, many of whom commented on the bumps and rough surface, which made handling difficult.

 

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