Hitherto largely anonymous in the 2005 World Series by Renault, Brazil's Fernando Rees showed just what he was capable of by topping both sessions on the opening day of the first winter group test at Valencia's Circuit Ricardo Tormo, although times were up as a whole, following the addition of new kerbs.

Joining the race-winning Draco Multiracing USA squad for what turned out to be an overcast day, Rees clocked 1min 22.590secs in the morning session to lead Pastor Maldonado by almost half a second, before topping the afternoon outing with a slightly slower time. New Spanish F3 champion Andy Soucek created something of a surprise in the latter session, running second to the Brazilian on his first outing in a World Series machine, and claiming the third best time overall for Interwetten.com.

Like Rees, Maldonado was also slower in the second session - to the tune of 1.3secs - but managed to hold on to second spot for champions Epsilon Euskadi as he seeks to land a ride for 2006 after a somewhat troubled debut in the category.

Behind Soucek, Tomas Kostka kept eyebrows raised with fourth fastest time, after proving equally rapid in both sessions while running with Kurt Mollekens' KTR squad, while youngster Giovanni Tedeschi put in his best showing in a WS car with fifth fastest time for RC Motorsport. Newcomers Davide Valsecchi, Ben Hanley - despite being hampered by electrical problems - and Alvaro Barba filled sixth to eighth, before Fabio Carbone - fresh back from Macau and with a handful of WS races under his belt, headed series 'veteran' Colin Fleming at the foot of the top ten.

Once again, the equality among drivers in the World Series was underlined with the leading twelve cars separated by less than a second. After a few weeks off, some of the 2005 series regulars used the sessions as a warm-up, whereas the newcomers had some minor adjustment problems, leading to a handful of red flags being shown both in the first and second sessions.

Like Soucek, Tedeschi had just the one session to post his time, sharing the car with series regular Eric Salignon, a move replicated at KTR by Xavier Maasen and Jerome d'Ambrosio. The Belgian was one of the newcomers to receive solid praise from the team running him, with KTR team principal Kurt Mollekens commenting that had been 'impressed by his maturity', while Mikhail Aleshin pleased Carlin Motorsport during the course of his 390km.

Michael Ammermuller completed his first World Series test in 13th spot with RC, but the German is tipped to find a berth in GP2 with Arden as Red Bull's only supported driver in the Formula One support series.

British team Comtec made its full WS debut with Susie Stoddart partnered by former f3 rival Danilo Dirani, and not Canada's Sean McIntosh as expected, both drivers getting used to the circuit as well as the car, although Dirani did provide a useful benchmark for his Scottish 'team-mate', having completed a handful of outings at the end of the regular season. The Brazilian posted his best lap of 1min 24.663secs in the morning session, while Stoddart improved her mark to 1min 25.620secs after lunch.

The test continues today [Wednesday], with Giedo Van de Garde expected to test for Pons Racing and the Chinese ace Po Hang Lin for Eurointernational.

Leading performances - Valencia (22 November):

Fernando Rees Draco 1m 22.590s 1m 22.761s 55/20 lapsPastor Maldonado Epsilon Euskadi 1m 22.962s 1m 24.223s 66/32Andy Soucek Interwetten no time 1m 23.103s 0/35Tomas Kostka KTR 1m 23.182 1m 23.304s 41/33Giovanni Tedeschi RC 1m 23.239s no time 58/0Davide Valsecchi Cram 1m 24.131s 1m 23.242s 51/37Ben Hanley Cram 1m 23.289s 1m 23.890s 46/23Alvaro Barba Pons 1m 24.210s 1m 23.330s 55/37Fabio Carbone Eurointernational 1m 23.762s 1m 23.335s 44/30Colin Fleming Carlin 1m 23.928s 1m 23.428s 43/40Giorgio Mondini Epsilon Euskadi 1m 23.480s 1m 23.584s 56/24Carlos Iaconelli Interwetten 1m 23.751s 1m 23.654s 40/38Michael Ammermuller RC 1m 23.750s 1m 24.123s 63/34Richard Antinucci Victory 1m 25.635s 1m 23.819s 29/28Jerome d'Ambrosio KTR no time 1m 23.876s 0/43Patrick Pilet GD 1m 23.919s 1m 24.104s 16/13Mihail Aleshin Carlin 1m 23.958s 1m 24.175s 51/27Matteo Pellegrino GD 1m 25.053s 1m 24.090s 57/36Damien Pasini Draco 1m 24.284s 1m 24.121s 50/30Eric Salignon RC no time 1m 24.417s 0/33Alejandro Nunez Victory 1m 25.295s 1m 24.508s 32/24Danilo Dirani Comtec 1m 24.663s 1m 25.619s 52/16Xavier Maasen KTR 1m 24.919s no time 51/0Yann Clairay DAMS 1m 24.953s 1m 27.122s 36/12Ryan Sharp Jenzer 1m 25.074s 1m 25.140s 44/35Susie Stoddart Comtec 1m 25.890s 1m 25.620s 39/19Frederic Vervisch GD 1m 26.000s 1m 25.977s 50/34Davide Oberle Jenzer 1m 26.819s 1m 27.750s 30/8Bastien Briere DAMS 1m 29.390s 1m 27.679s 10/26

[times in bold are driver's best across two sessions, shown AM and PM; laps in each session also shown AM/PM]

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