After much hype and anticipation, A1 Grand Prix officially made its presence felt in the world of motorsport with the first practice sessions taking place at the Brands Hatch circuit, and it was the Americas leading the way.

With 25 countries confirmed to race for the pride of their nation, practice highlighted a number of factors, not least the closeness of the times, with less than three seconds covering the first 20 cars.

As it happens though Team USA drew first blood, with GP2 runner Scott Speed leading the way followed by Brazil and France. On home ground, Great Britain also looked in impressive form with Robbie Kerr setting the fourth quickest time, just six tenths shy of the leading nation.

Inevitably, Speed was impressed with his showing around the circuit. "I'm quite happy with the way things have come together considering it has all been put together very fast and obviously it is quite encouraging to start a new season so quick," explained the American at the end of the day. "I last raced on this Grand Prix track in 2003 but I might as well have come to a new circuit as I didn't remember any of it."

Kerr was also happy to have emerged from the opening session as one of the pace setters. "It has been a tricky day but it has gone well so we have to be happy," Kerr claimed.

"We are still learning about the car so have changed it quite a bit but the good thing is that we are going in the right direction. We have been working together now as a team for about a month and a half but in reality we have only worked together for five days so I am even happier about how well it is all coming together."

With the first session running in dry but overcast conditions, the heavens finally opened ahead of the afternoon, giving the teams a chance to test out their wet set-up. Although times were inevitably down on the morning, the competition was still very close, with Nelson Piquet Jr grabbing the initiative and setting the fastest time, albeit just two tenths from the Team Great Britain.

"We were a bit unlucky because we had some problems in the first practice session but it was no disadvantage as I was fastest in the second session," Piquet Jr stated after the session.

"We don't have any major problems and the team is working well but it really is too early to tell how quick we are going to be. I think qualifying and the Sprint race will say a lot about this weekend. It could be the true pointer for how the weekend is going to be."

Elsewhere in the two sessions, there were some surprise names at the head of the table. Malaysia managed fifth in the first session, with Australia, Switzerland, Portugal, Netherlands and Mexico rounding out the top ten, while Canada, Ireland and Germany made an appearance in the top half in second practice.

Many eyes were also on the less favoured nations taking part with Pakistan securing 16th and 12th, while Lebanon managed a best of 18th and Indonesia finished the day as 17th best.

With decent reliability and most teams getting several laps under their belts, Sheikh Maktoum was understandably delighted to see his brainchild come to fruition.

"We had an interesting day and saw a lot of action in two very different sessions," said the Sheikh. "It is obviously early days but I'm very happy with what I have seen. I think the 25 teams have put on a professional show which looked impressive on television.

"We are also delighted that the fans turned up to watch the track action here at Brands Hatch today and know from ticket sales that we will get a big crowd on Sunday."

 

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