Local hero Bryan Herta finally put Team USA at the top of the A1 Grand Prix timesheets as the much debated Laguna Seca round gave Rick Weidinger's squad a chance to shine on home soil.

The Californian resident took advantage of the slightly revised schedule to grab all the headlines, as the first official practice session was delayed to allow the 22 participating teams extra time to set up their cars following the late arrival of freight from Mexico. As a result, there will now be two practice sessions on Saturday morning, ahead of qualifying.

Heavy storms, which covered the surrounding mountains with snow overnight, meant that the track was still wet when the session began - something Herta had not been expecting, despite the fact that heavy rain in the region had cast doubt on the event as recently as a week ago.

"There is a first for everything, but it was surprise to wake up to that this morning," he admitted, "I think the people at Laguna Seca have done a brilliant job in giving us a race track that we can race on in such a short time. The car is good, but it's a bit difficult in the cold conditions and, with the Cooper tyres, the set-up needs to be a bit different.

"It was a good session and a good start to the weekend. We sat out the first part of the session, as the track was still dirty and, as I know the track, I didn't need to go out and learn it. The car is good, but I struggled with balance in a few corners, and I'm pleased to be quickest. We haven't had the results we wanted so far this season, but we hope to put that right here."

Asked how important it was to do well at the team's home race, Weidinger admitted that it was 'extremely important'.

"We've got the right driver, the right race track - and I'd like to say the right time of year, but it would be nice to have been here when it was warmer!" he smiled, "When 'We the People' finished at the top of the time sheets, we were extremely happy. Bryan did a great job after only a few laps on track."

The Californian circuit, with its fearsome reputation, caught out a number of drivers who slid off on different parts. New Zealand's Matt Halliday brought out the first red flag of the session, with South Africa's Stephen Simpson causing the second when he spun but remained on track. Simpson was able to re-start unaided, but Team Indonesia's Ananda Mikola brought another red flag, which concluded the session two minutes early when he went off into the gravel.

Team Mexico's Salvador Duran recorded the second fastest lap time of the day, looking to return to the sort of form that produced a podium finish in Indonesia, but deserted the team on home soil a fortnight ago.

"The first session went well, it's always good to finish in the first three," the F3 regular commented, "I think we can still do a better lap time though. I think we have shown
that we have good pace and that we can be at the top. Other teams will not stop working between now and tomorrow, and drivers like Jos [Verstappen] will get quicker, and we will need to work hard too.

"It was a bad race in Mexico, but that is motor racing, and that's how it goes. It all went wrong. But I'm happy to be here now - I love America! The Corkscrew is difficult, but so is the corner before, with a bump and a fast left. It will be a very interesting race, but we will have to see what the weather does."

Third fastest was Verstappen, one of the many drivers with no previous track experience.

"I still have to learn the track, but the car felt good, although there are a lot of areas where we can improve," the Dutchman reported, "I am not on the limit yet, and we can go quicker.

"The track is very slippery, and the water across the track seemed to get worse. I still have to learn the track, but it is a very nice circuit, great to drive, but not easy to learn. I just hope the weather stays dry for the rest of the weekend."

Portugal's Alvaro Parente took fourth spot, ahead of pre-race favourite Nicolas Lapierre, who takes his latest turn in the Team France car. The DAMS-run team can clinch the A1GP title with a solid weekend in California, and knows that closest rival Switzerland could struggle to find its feet with newcomer Giorgio Mondini on board in place of F1-bound Neel Jani. The silver car was a lowly 18th in practice as Mondini got to grip with the Lola and the circuit.

The top ten was completed by youngster Graham Rahal, who translated his previous experience well in the Team Lebanon car to move ahead of Tomas Enge (Czech Republic), Ralph Firman (Ireland), Halliday and Brazil's Christian Fittipaldi, who brings knowledge from his lengthy CART career.

Surprisingly perhaps, given that he is a previous Laguna winner in Champ Cars, Max Papis was only 16th in the Team Italy car, but at least had the excuse of not having driven the machine before practice.

Ryan Briscoe made his debut in the Team Australia entry, but posted a time slightly slower than Papis, while another Laguna winner, Patrick Carpentier, fared even worse for Team Canada, bringing up the rear in 22nd spot.