Nico Rosberg picked up where he left off in last month's GP2 Series test by setting the quickest lap in damp conditions during the solitary practice session at Magny-Cours.

The ART Grand Prix driver set a time of 1min 27.154secs to head the 24-car field as it returned to action after a month's break while the F1 circus headed across the Atlantic for its ill-fated double-header in Canada and the USA.

Rosberg headed points leader Heikki Kovalainen and ever-present threat Scott Speed at the Nevers venue, as darkly ominous clouds threatened to provide the series with its first public outing in the wet. However, the weather soon took a turn for the better, with the sun starting to peek through as the cars took to the drying track.

Local knowledge helped Nicolas Lapierre set the early pace, the Frenchman having grown up near the track and clearly knowing the fastest line around it, but it wasn't long before team-mate Kovalainen claimed top spot from him with a time of 1min 27.311secs.

Rosberg then set his fastest lap 18 minutes into a half-hour session littered with a few incidents. Ryan Sharp stopped on track after a spin, while Hiroki Yoshimoto also rotating and Ferdinando Monfardini needing a push from the marshals to get back to the pits. As ever, though, the times were remarkably close, with the top ten split by just one second, with two seconds covering the first 18 drivers.

Behind Speed, Giorgio Pantano headed a French crown consisting of Lapierre, Alex Premat and Olivier Pla, with Jose Maria Lopez, Gianmaria Bruni and Nelson Piquet rounding out the top ten. Ernesto Viso, who will suffer a grid penalty in Saturday's race, was back in 13th, behind BCN team-mate Yoshimoto and double race winner Adam Carroll.


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