The new era of A1GP racing finally got underway at Donington Park on Tuesday, and even torrential rain could not prevent the first teams getting to grips with the new 600bhp Ferrari-built and powered machines.

Each of the few teams present - the whole grid isn't expected to run together until a later date - completed significant mileage, with Fairuz Fauzy ending the day quickest of all for A1 Team Malaysia, after posting a best lap of 1min 35.250secs.

After completing a number of engine installation laps, the World Series by Renault regular was allowed to up his pace, although none of the teams was pushing too hard in the treacherous conditions.

"It's a great car," Fauzy enthused after his first run, "It ran smoothly and my first impressions are good. Now we've completed all the necessary installation and routine tasks, we can start to work on developing the initial set-up and understand the handling of the car. It's a very exciting car to drive and I'm looking forward to having more time behind the wheel as we prepare for the season ahead."

Team Netherlands' distinctive orange car was also on track, piloted by last season's regular pilot Jeroen Bleekemolen, while John Martin, Adrian Zaugg and Edoardo Piscopo shook down the Australian, South African and Italian challengers respectively. The series test car, which has now completed 7446km, was also present, with Thomas Biagi at the wheel.

"It was a useful and fun first day," Bleekemolen commented, "For me, it was the first time driving the Ferrari and it was a good experience. Unfortunately, the track was really wet, but we were able to start working on the car straight away.

"It was the first time that I had had to brake with my left foot, something I have never done before, but that felt completely natural after one lap. All in all, I felt at home right away. Apart from that, you feel that the car has got a lot more downforce than the old car, even on a wet track. This will be quite spectacular at Zandvoort I think, because of the many high-speed sections there."

The Dutch squad will be one of those returning to the track later this week, and Bleekemolen hopes that conditions will be different to get a taste of the car's potential in the dry.

"The car has got a lot of electronic systems, such as launch control and anti-stall control, and we had some issues with them, but that's normal with a first test," he reported, "We will now prepare everything for Thursday, and I am really looking forward to it, as we will try out some more things, such as the powerboost."

Zaugg, a double race winner in A1GP last season, also loved the car, and is looking forward to be able to develop it more in better conditions.

"There was so much grip, especially under braking," he commented, The Michelin tyres were fantastic, and the car cornered well in both slow- and high-speed corners. It was quite difficult to compare the new car with the old one, because it was wet today, but, even on the racing line, which in the wet you can normally not find much grip, the tyres meant there was grip there."

Testing resumes at Donington on Thursday, before moving south to continue at Snetterton later this month.



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