America's Colin Fleming is determined not to let former team-mate Scott Speed hog the headlines for his Formula One exploits this season, and emphasised that by setting the pace during the second day of World Series by Renault testing in Barcelona.

The Carlin Motorsport driver moved to the head of the timesheets midway through the morning session at the Circuit de Catalunya and, satisfied with its performance during a day-and-a-half of running, prompted the team to pack up and head for home before the afternoon was out. The American's 1min 29.193secs was the best time of the test - more than half a second quicker than Wednesday pacesetter Pastor Maldonado managed - and was ably backed up by Carlin team-mate Mihael Aleshin, who finished sixth in the morning session and ninth after lunch despite his relative inexperience after stepping up from FRenault.

"We'd rather save our tyres for the next round of testing at Le Mans," a team spokesman explained of the early exit, "We've put in some excellent work here and I reckon we are going to be among those fighting it out for victory this season."

The morning session was marked by the first run for all teams on new rubber, after some had decided to save tyres for day two while they got used to their revised machines. Fleming duly set the pace with his new lap record for the Barcelona facility, but was hotly pursued by Maldonado, who is equally marking himself out as a pre-season favourite after a fraught 2005. The Venezuelan's performance was all the more remarkable, however, as he had badly damaged his car in a Wednesday off.

No fewer than eight drivers were closely matched in the 1min 26s during the session, the remaining six led by the impressive Davide Valsecchi. Having already impressed in the winter tests, Valsecchi has wound up with a seat at reigning champions Epsilon Euskadi and appears determined not to let the opportunity slip through his fingers after posting the third fastest time, just 82-thousandths off Fleming's pace.

GP2 refugee Borja Garcia was next up for RC Motorsport, fending off the challenges of Ben Hanley (Cram), Aleshin, Andy Soucek (Interwetten) and Alx Danielsson (Comtec) despite not yet being familiar enough with the World Series car to feel he could push to his limit. - Alvaro Parente and Christian Montanari rounded out the top ten.

Honda F1 test driver James Rossiter arrived overnight from Vallelunga and posted the 22nd best time of the 30 runners, but the Briton was not alone in being a fancied runner among the lower reaches, as Bruce Jouanny was 17th, Milos Pavlovic 18th and Eric Salignon, a late addition to the Interwetten squad, a disappointing 28th after an incident involving Epsilon's Steven Kane.

"I feel a bit rusty, but my times are coming down with every run," Jouanny, who raced sportscars in 2005, admitted, "I'm just happy to be back in the fold."

Jerome d'Ambrosio, another driver to make the move up from 200bhp to 425bhp over the close season, confessed to having some difficulties getting to grips with the car, but Tech 1 team-mate Ryo Fukuda left rookie team boss Simon Abadie happy after remaining at the top of the timing screens the opening part of the day.

The afternoon belonged to Spanish F3 champion Soucek, who continued his strong test by recording the fastest time at 1min 26.'775secs to head Valsecchi and Garcia in the top three. Maldonado was fourth fastest, while Carlin's early departure meant that Fleming could not better 19th.

Valsecchi held top spot until the closing minutes of the test, when Soucek stole ahead of him in the Interwetten car. The Spaniard showed well in all four sessions, suggesting that he could be the surprise package of 2006, but there are others - Valsecchi included - who could lay claim to rookie honours.

Garcia, Rossiter, Sean McIntosh, Robbie Kerr, Parente, Aleshin and Kane, all newcomers to the series this year, completed the top ten, with only Maldonado upholding second year honour, while Jouanny also reported himself satisfied with his personal progress.

There were problems, however, for Maldonado's Draco team-mate Tomas Kostka, who lost an engine, Danielsson and Fukuda, while Pascal Kochem, Hanley and Pavlovic all lost valuable time.

Leading performances (23 March) - Barcelona:

Colin Fleming Carlin 1min 26.193secs 1min 28.996secsPastor Maldonado Draco 1min 26.226secs 1min 27.188secsDavide Valsecchi Epsilon Euskadi 1min 26.275secs 1min 26.829secsBorja Garcia RC 1min 26.442secs 1min 27.058secsAndy Soucek 1min 26.836secs 1min 26.775secsBen Hanley Cram 1min 26.683secs 1min 28.113secsMihael Aleshin Carlin 1min 26.830secs 1min 27.827secsAlx Danielsson Comtec 1min 26.991secs 1min 29.445secsAlvaro Parente Victory 1min 27.353secs 1min 27.755secsChristian Montanari Prema 1min 27.470secs 1min 28.332secsJames Rossiter Pons 1min 28.477secs 1min 27.524secsRyo Fukuda Tech 1 1min 27.575secs 1min 28.860secsSean McIntosh KTR 1min 27.714secs 1min 27.624secsSteven Kane Epsilon Euskadi 1min 27.732secs 1min 27.835secsRobbie Kerr KTR 1min 27.846secs 1min 27.740secsHayanari Shimoda Victory 1min 27.885secs 1min 28.355secsAlvaro Barba Jenzer 1min 27.927secs 1min 29.005secsBruce Jouanny RC 1min 27.946secs 1min 28.242secsPatrick Pilet GD 1min 28.144secs 1min 27.947secsMilos Pavlovic Cram 1min 27.980secs 1min 28.626secsTomas Kostka Draco 1min 28.045secs no timeGregory Franchi Prema 1min 28.054secs 1min 30.238secsEric Salignon 1min 30.304secs 1min 28.301secsMatteo Meneghello GD 1min 28.492secs 1min 29.501secsPascal Kochem Eurointernational 1min 28.576secs 1min 29.707secsCelso Miguez Pons 1min 28.980secs 1min 29.182secsAlessandro Bonetti Jenzer 1min 29.300secs 1min 29.130secsJerome d'Ambrosio Tech 1 1min 29.305secs 1min 30.385secsTor Graves Eurointernational 1min 31.172secs 1min 30.671secsEdwin Jowsey Comtec 1min 31.355secs 1min 30.974secs

[Times displayed AM/PM, with fastest in bold]


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