The sound of 16 A1 Grand Prix cars in full race livery jostling for position over the start-finish line was the highlight of day two of the series' latest group test at Paul Ricard, but it was Team USA who once again came out on top of the timesheets.

The day was a huge success for all involved, as lap times continued to fall and several different teams and drivers showed that they were capable of pushing for the top slot. In the end, the top three featured the same teams as it had on day one of the test, although France manage to usurp Brazil from P2 in the wake of the Scott Speed-driven Team USA machine. Colin Fleming replaced Speed behind the wheel of the USA car during the day, while Alex Premat replaced GP2 rival Nicolas Lapierre in the French entry, as Nelson Piquet Jr continued his stint in the distinctively-liveried Brazilian Lola.

With Team Great Britain slipping back down the order despite the best efforts of Robbie Kerr, New Zealand and Portugal took the opportunity to sneak into the top five. Again, both teams continued with the drivers that ran on Wednesday - Jonny Reid and Alvaro Parente respectively - while Ralph Firman began to find his feet in the new Irish entry to move up to sixth. Jos Verstappen and Romain Grosjean also stayed in the cockpit of the Dutch and Swiss entries respectively, with the young Formula Renault racer impressing team principal Max Welti.

"We have been testing Romain Grosjean, a young Swiss driver who has developed extremely well in today's test alone, having done a very professional job adapting to a more powerful car," the former Sauber team chief said, "However, the most positive surprise so far has been reliability. It is not often in my 30 years of experience in motorsport that I have come across a piece of technology as reliable as the A1 Grand Prix car. Compared to all other series that have been launched in recent years, we
haven't had any significant problems."

New faces proliferated in the middle order, with another GP2 regular, Fairuz Fauzy, taking over from Alex Yoong in the Malaysian car and Kalil Beschir replacing Basil Shaaban in the Lebanese entry. Both did well to get ahead of Kerr, as well as former DTM runner Timo Scheider, in order to complete the day's top ten. Scheider continued in the German entry, which unveiled Michael Schumacher's manager Willi Weber as its 'seat holder' in a ceremony before the day's action.

Also returning to action were Christian Jones (Australia) and Stephen Simpson, the latter replacing IRL frontrunner Tomas Scheckter at the wheel of the South African entry and immediately feeling a difference to when he drove at the Silverstone test.

"The car has been great today," the Formula Renault UK racer reported, "This kind of test session is invaluable, even though we are concentrating on doing our own thing and improving the set up of the car. The team is coming together nicely and I think it's going to be a strong partnership. The car is great to drive. Even round a circuit I don't know, I have complete confidence in it, I'm loving being involved in A1 Grand Prix."

Despite every team reporting good reliability and an increase in pace, it was the 16-car rolling start that caught the attention, with series founder Sheikh Maktoum able to witness another important step forward in the growth of his creation.

"It was sensational seeing all the cars have their first rolling start today, especially with the French car and the USA 'We the People' machine duelling for the top position diving into the first hairpin," he smiled, "Exactly one month ahead of our opening race at Brands Hatch, A1 Grand Prix is all set to find out which country really is the best on track."

Leading performances (25 August) - Paul Ricard:

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 24.772sHolland Jos Verstappen 1m 24.879sSwitzerland Romain Grosjean 1m 24.895sMalaysia Fairuz Fauzy 1m 24.987sLebanon Kalil Beschir 1m 25.012sGreat Britain Robbie Kerr 1m 25.104sGermany Timo Scheider 1m 25.211sPakistan Adam Khan 1m 25.374sSouth Africa Stephen Simpson 1m 25.757sMexico Salvador Duran 1m 25.891sIndonesia Ananda Mikola 1m 26.655sIndia Karun Chandhok 1m 26.959sAustralia Christian Jones 1m 26.990sRussia Alexey Vasiliev 1m 27.942sChina Teng Jiang 1m 28.202s

 

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