France and New Zealand led the way in the opening two practice sessions for the ninth round of the World Cup of Motorsport at Parque Fundidora in Mexico, recording consistently fast times in both one-hour outings.

Once again, the drivers struggled to get to grips with wet conditions on a track new to all but four, and several cars spun off as they tried to find the limits of the tricky layout. Most, however, managed to get back on the road and continue the session. The Team Japan entry was the only one to suffer damage, after Hayanari Shimoda slid off and hit the tyre wall in the first session - an accident that put the team out of the second session.

New Zealand's Matt Halliday paced the opening session, fending off France's Alex Premat by a couple of tenths, despite neither man having seen the Fundidora Park circuit before. Their positions were then reversed in the second session, although Premat only enjoyed a 0.059secs advantage at the time the chequered flag fell.

"We had a really good day, fastest in the first and second sessions, and we managed to put together a really good set-up," the Kiwi reported, "We have been progressing really well in the last two races, and I think we have a good chance of ending the season on a high note. I'm feeling pretty confident for tomorrow."

Premat was equally happy, but claimed that the track remained slippery in places throughout.

"We had a good day and I think we will do well tomorrow in qualifying." the multiple A1 race winner insisted.

While France was no surprise among the frontrunners, New Zealand was joined among the less likely to feature by Germany, which took third fastest time in the opening session, courtesy of Timo Scheider.

"We made a few changes to the car today, which worked well," the DTM returnee revealed, "I didn't walk around the track beforehand like some of the drivers did, which made it a bit more difficult, as it is a strange track, slippery in places but with quite a lot of grip in others. I think we will have an interesting race - and there will be opportunity for overtaking."

Portugal filled the third spot in session two, after Alvaro Parente had hauled the team up the order, following a disappointing time in the opening session when he failed to set a time.

Switzerland and South Africa rounded out the top five in session one, with the Czech Republic getting in on the action after the break. Sentul pacesetter Robbie Kerr was ninth and sixth respectively for Great Britain, while those driver with Champ Car experience of the circuit failed to better the seventh spot recorded by A1GP rookie Patrick Carpentier in session one. Bryan Herta, Alex Yoong and Christian Fittipaldi took eighth, tenth and eleventh in that session, their best positions of the day.

Local hero David Martinez, who was born and raised in Monterrey, remained hopeful of a good result over the weekend, despite struggling in the wet conditions.

"It was harder than I thought," he admitted, having replaced Sentul podium finisher Salvador Duran at the wheel of the Mexican car, "I was quick on the first sector, but couldn't find the speed in the second and third sectors. When it gets a bit dryer, I will feel more confident."

Graham Rahal made his debut with Team Lebanon, recording an impressive twelfth fastest time in session one, while fellow newcomer Patrick Friesacher was twice 13th for Austria.



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