After Malaysia topped the timesheets on Wednesday, it was Germany's turn to post fastest lap on Thursday in the official pre-season A1GP test at Silverstone, with Team Great Britain hot on its heels.

Niko Hulkenberg set the time for Team Germany during the morning session, a tonic for the squad which struggled during A1GP's maiden campaign in 2005-06. Despite Darren Manning's best efforts the Brit was unable to get within three tenths of the ex-Formula BMW ace as just five of the 20 teams present succeeded in improving their times in the afternoon. Johnny Reid for Team New Zealand was third quickest, with Wednesday pace-setters Malaysia down in ninth.

It was a day of firsts for 19-year-old H?lkenberg, one of the youngest drivers in the A1GP field, as he made his series debut and his first-ever appearance at Silverstone. The 550bhp A1GP car is also the most powerful car the winner of the 2005 Formula BMW ADAC championship has driven in his short career.

"This has been a great experience for me," H?lkenberg said. "I really enjoyed driving the car and especially using the paddle shift. I was able to get used to it quickly despite the fact the fastest car I have driven before is in F3.

"This is my first visit to Silverstone and I really like the track a lot. I don't know what the future holds, but I would love to be in Zandvoort as my home is very close to the Dutch border; the track is just an hour away."

Under grey, overcast skies A1 Team Great Britain's Darren Manning ended the day 0.312s adrift of his German rival.

The Yorkshireman, who raced for his country at the 2006 season finale in Shanghai, commented: "Obviously I enjoyed today as it brought back great memories of my races for Team Great Britain in China last year. I think everyone is looking forward to the second season and it would be great for the team to score its first win as early as possible."

Thursday marked the last day of the official test session before the A1GP season opener kicks off at Zandvoort in the Netherlands on 1 October. One hundred thousand tickets have already been sold for the race weekend, which will follow the hugely popular sprint and feature race format developed last year.

Combined times from the morning and afternoon sessions

1. Germany 1min 10.615secs 1min 11.487secs 85 laps
2. Great Britain 1min 11.106secs 1min 10.927secs 90 laps
3. New Zealand 1min 10.936secs 1min 12.629secs 107 laps
4. Netherlands 1min 10.942secs 1min 11.731secs 96 laps
5. China 1min 11.173secs 1min 12.669secs 86 laps
6. South Africa 1min 11.183secs 1min 12.314secs 98 laps
7. Lebanon 1min 11.237secs 1min 13.919secs 96 laps
8. Australia 1min 11.347secs No Time 50 laps
9. Malaysia 1min 11.396secs 1min 12.522secs 73 laps
10. Brazil 1min 11.952secs 1min 11.471secs 97 laps
11. Italy 1min 11.507secs 1min 15.955secs 73 laps
12. France 1min 12.383secs 1min 11.662secs 70 laps
13. Canada 1min 11.704secs 1min 11.877secs 93 laps
14. Ireland 1min 12.140secs 1min 11.877secs 117 laps
15. Switzerland 1min 11.892secs 1min 12.977secs 97 laps
16. Indonesia 1min 11.908secs 1min 13.592secs 92 laps
17. Mexico 1min 12.200secs 1min 12.161secs 91 laps
18. Czech Republic 1min 12.321secs 1min 12.588secs 54 laps
19. Pakistan 1min 12.642secs 1min 12.740secs 75 laps
20. USA 1min 13.521secs 1min 14.655secs 53 laps

 

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