The opening official qualifying segment of the A1 Grand Prix season began under hazy skies at Zandvoort with the 23 competing Nations grappling to come to terms with a new format as well as a new A1 venue in the classic Dutch circuit.

As was the case last year qualifying is split into four 15-minute sessions with each Nation permitted one flying lap per session. At the end of the four sessions each nation will put their two fastest times forward to decide the grid for Sunday's races.

While the 2.6-mile Zandvoort circuit may be new to the A1 series it is a familiar venue to many of the European based drivers in action and at the end of the opening session it was Mexican Salvador Duran in top spot.

Duran's lap of 1min 28.504secs gave Team Mexico a perfect start to a year in which they are tipped to feature strongly while A1 newcomer Niko Hulkenberg turned many heads by placing his Team Germany entry in second position, less than three tenths slower than Duran.

Defending Champions France were third fastest in the hands of Nicolas Lapierre with A1 rookie Adrian Zaugg an impressive fourth fastest for Team South Africa.

Jeroen Bleekemolen upheld home honours well in the Team Netherlands entry, setting eighth quickest time much to the delight of the large and partisan crowd while A1 newcomers Singapore and Greece wound up a most praiseworthy 14th and 18th respectively.



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