Pedro de la Rosa hit the front at Paul Ricard as the F1 group test in France headed into a second day.

The Spaniard continued driving duties in the team's 2006 Formula One challenger, as his programme remained focused on front suspension and set-up - de la Rosa also starting his Michelin tyre testing programme during the day.

De la Rosa completed just under 150 laps with a best time of 1m 04.231s to edge out Robert Doornbos who was second quickest for Red Bull Racing - the Dutchman posting a fastest lap of 1m 04.262s.

Having been hit by gearbox problems on Wednesday, Doornbos was able to run without problems on Thursday as the team completed its two-day long programme. Toro Rosso driver Vitantonio Liuzzi returned to testing duties with the senior Red Bull team to set the seventh quickest time.

"Our programme centred on European GP tyre choice, testing of new aero and chassis parts and durability runs," chief test engineer Ian Morgan explained. "Robert gave new chassis 05 its first shakedown today, while Tonio concentrated on longer runs to evaluate tyre durability. It's been a good test, as we got a lot of miles under our belt, went through our entire planned programme and found some performance."

Having set the pace on day one, Heikki Kovalainen had to settle for third quickest in the first of the Renault cars - despite completing only eleven laps - with the second McLaren test driver Gary Paffett continuing at the wheel of the interim MP4-20 to go fourth quickest with a time of 1m 04.279s.

After a short rest following the Australian GP, Giancarlo Fisichella joined the test team carried on his testing programme of the team, with the focus remaining on chassis set up improvements and tyre testing to help the championship leaders prepare for Imola in three weeks time.

"We were very productive this morning and our programme was mainly focused on chassis set up," test team engineer Christian Silk said. "During the afternoon, we completed an interesting tyre programme with Michelin which should be important for Imola. Our results of the day were very positive."

Toyota continued testing with Ricardo Zonta and Olivier Panis both out on track. Zonta completed a full day of testing concentrating on trying different tyre constructions for the next race and ended the day seventh on the time-sheets with a best time of 1m 04.655s - only four tenths off quickest driver de la Rosa.

"We tried numerous things today and continued our tyre test," the Brazilian said. "My car was reliable and therefore I could put in a lot of laps. We will do longs runs tomorrow as we did not have enough time to finish them today, because we had to concentrate on gaining results for the Imola tyre choice."

Behind Zonta, Jacques Villenuve and Robert Kubica were eighth and ninth quickest for the BMW Sauber team. In the morning, both drivers worked on the set-up of the car, with Villeneuve then focusing on testing new aerodynamic parts and Kubica completing a tyre test development programme for Michelin while also evaluating different tyre specifications in view of the European Grand Prix at the N?rburgring. The day wasn't without problems however, with Villeneuve forced to finish his working day prematurely due to a fuel system problem that could not be fixed in time.

A planned chassis change on Panis' Toyota caused a delay in his running meaning the French veteran wasn't able to take to the track until the afternoon. However he still completed nearly 50 laps as he focused on tyre testing for the San Marino Grand Prix.

"Our day has been a little less productive than yesterday, but altogether we are quite advanced now in our preparations for San Marino and Nurb?rgring," general manager of car design and development Pascal Vasselon said. "We are reasonably confident that we have looked at all our options for the tyre choice and we will just finish up some long runs tomorrow. The most positive thing is that the weather is finally similar to race conditions, which allows us to better simulate what we can expect at coming races during the season."

Testing continues at Paul Ricard tomorrow for all teams bar Red Bull Racing.

Leading times (April 6) - Paul Ricard:

1. Pedro de la Rosa McLaren Mercedes 1m 04.231s 147 laps M
2. Robert Doornbos Red Bull-Ferrari 1m 04.262s 118 laps M
3. Heikki Kovalainen Renault-Renault 1m 04.274s 11 laps M
4. Gary Paffett McLaren-Mercedes 1m 04.279s 127 laps M*
5. Giancarlo Fisichella Renault-Renault 1m 04.380s 104 laps M
6. Ricardo Zonta Toyota-Toyota 1m 04.655s 133 laps B
7. Vitantonio Liuzzi Red Bull-Ferrari 1m 04.914s 169 laps M
8. Jacques Villeneuve BMW-Sauber 1m 04.961s 50 laps M
9. Robert Kubica BMW-Sauber 1m 05.398s 123 laps M
10. Olivier Panis Toyota-Toyota 1m 05.524s 47 laps B

* denotes V10 engine / B denotes Bridgestone tyres / M denotes Michelin tyres

Track conditions: Dry and sunny.

all times unofficial