The 20 nations signed up for the new A1GP Championship are ready to do battle after the two and a half day test session at Paul Ricard drew to a close earlier today [Friday].

With under a month to go to the opening round of the season at Brands Hatch, the teams covered over 16,000km of running, with Team Ireland driver Ralph Firman setting the pace on the final half a day of running.

"We've had a great test, working on the set up of the car and setting the quickest time this morning," A1 Team Ireland franchise principal Mark Kershaw said. "We're really pleased the way the car has gone today, it hasn't given us any problems, things are looking good for the first race.

"The timings are very close, all the teams are within a couple of tenths of each other, so the races are going to be very competitive. But we're glad to be here and proud to be representing Ireland."

A1 Grand Prix's global operations manager, John Wickham declared himself pleased with the test, and said he was impressed by the professionalism of the teams in what was only the second main series test.

"I'm impressed with the professionalism displayed by all of the teams here at Paul Ricard," he said. "We've continued in the same direction as at Silverstone, lots of track time with very few interruptions and reliability that is exceptional. I think the teams that are here now know their cars well and should be confident about what will
happen at the first race at Brands Hatch."

President and chairman Sheikh Maktoum was also left delighted with the French test and said he was particularly pleased to see the new A1GP cars running reliably.

"We've just closed our second successful team test session and once again the A1 cars have proved to be immensely reliable. I am delighted with the performance of all our teams, particularly as they all managed to shave vital seconds off their lap times throughout the course of the test. The timings were all very close and I'm looking forward to an exciting first race at Brands Hatch."

Although Firman topped the final half a day, it was Team USA driver Scott Speed who wet the fastest time overall with his 1m 24.177s lap from Thursday.

Leading performances - Paul Ricard test:

USA Scott Speed 1m 24.177sFrance Alex Premat 1m 24.392sBrazil Nelson Piquet Jr 1m 24.574sNew Zealand Jonny Reid 1m 24.590sPortugal Alvaro Parente 1m 24.738sIreland Ralph Firman 1m 24.561sSwitzerland Neel Jani 1m 24.617sHolland Jos Verstappen 1m 24.646sMalaysia Fairuz Fauzy 1m 24.987sLebanon Kalil Beschir 1m 25.012sGreat Britain Robbie Kerr 1m 25.104sGermany Timo Scheider 1m 25.211sMexico Salvador Duran 1m 25.296sAustralia Christian Jones 1m 25.312sPakistan Adam Khan 1m 25.374sSouth Africa Stephen Simpson 1m 25.509sIndonesia Ananda Mikola 1m 26.291sIndia Karun Chandhok 1m 26.579sRussia Alexey Vasiliev 1m 26.805sChina Teng Jiang 1m 27.113s



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