Canada drew first blood in practice for the first round of A1 Grand Prix at Zandvoort after James Hinchcliffe, edged out Great Britain and South Africa for the fastest time of the day.

Continuing his pace from the pre-season test at Silverstone, Champ Car Atlantic driver Hinchcliffe took advantage of taking part in the rookie sessions ahead of final practice by proving the surprising front runner at the end of the first day.

It was a strong day all round for the sister Canadian and Great Britain teams, with Darren Manning less than a tenth adrift in second place around a packed Dutch circuit, while South Africa look to be benefiting from their tie-up with reigning champions DAMS by going third fastest with Adrian Zaugg.

Indeed, there were few surprise nations in the leading positions, even if the appearance of newcomers Niko Hulkenberg and Sebastien Buemi for Germany and Switzerland in fourth and fifth were perhaps not the drivers many would have had in mind.

Mexico's Salvador Duran was sixth, just ahead of Jeroen Bleekemolen, the Dutchman having been drafted in late to take centre stage for Team Netherlands. Reigning champions France, New Zealand and Brazil rounded out the top ten with Nicolas Lapierre, Matt Halliday and Tuka Rocha.

However, one of the stars of the day proved to Lapierre's understudy Loic Duval, who was drafted in as a reserve driver after Alex Premat was signed as Spyker MF1's test driver for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Nonetheless, despite his inexperience of both the car and the circuit, the Formula Nippon front runner was fastest in both rookie sessions by a comfortable margin, both from Bleekemolen. More tellingly though is that Duval set a faster time than Lapierre.

Meanwhile, newcomers Singapore and Greece posted the 21st and 23rd best time respectively.

 

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