Reigning champions ART Grand Prix proved that there will be no resting on laurels this season, as Lewis Hamilton and Alex Premat topped this day's times on the GP2 Series' first visit to the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia.

Although surprise addition to the field Franck Montagny got close to the two ART drivers with the best time of the afternoon, Hamilton and Premat took the initial advantage as the series gears up for its first race weekend at the same track in just over 48 hours' time.

Although he has shown himself to be remarkably quick to adapt to GP2, rookie Hamilton was on a level playing field in Spain, and edged out team-mate Premat by a couple of tenths to record the day's best time of 1min 19.362secs in the morning session.

The ART pair were followed in the morning session by Nelson Piquet Jr and Piquet Sports team-mate Xandi Negrao, who have been consistent performers throughout the build-up to the new campaign. Montagny, however, managed to beat both Brazilian's with his afternoon best of 1min 19.918secs, which gave FMS International its first fastest session time under its new guise.

The morning leaderboard was completed by Tristan Gommendy, whose fifth for iSport International confirmed the British team as a potential winner after Ernesto Viso's recent performances, and Adrian Valles, who again took a top six spot for the under-rated Campos Racing.

The first morning of on-track activity saw the majority of drivers getting used to a circuit on which they were unfamiliar but, after only half a day, the best times were only nine seconds shy of the best F1 laps set in Valencia testing this year.

Montagny, of course, is one of the few to have prior track experience in a rapid single-seater. The Frenchman has enjoyed success at the track in Formula Nissan, and has also completed a vast number of days testing there for Renault's F1 team. He was drafted in at the last minute by the FMS International squad to provide an understanding of the track and to perfect the team's set-up for the first weekend of competition, starting the day anonymously in 14th in the standings, sandwiched between two other ex-F1 drivers, Gimmi Bruni and Timo Glock.

However, the Frenchman was quickly into his stride and, having found a set-up on the FMS Dallara that he was happy with, accelerated into top spot after lunch. Although he couldn't quite topple the ART duo, Montagny was one of the first drivers on track after the lunch break and held top spot for almost the entire three-hour session, constantly improving his times.

He eventually headed an all-French top three in the afternoon, with Nicolas Lapierre setting the second quickest time for Arden International, with Franck Perera taking third for DAMS.

Jose Maria Lopez who came home fourth for Super Nova International, with another Frenchman, Olivier Pla, fifth for DPR Direxiv. Bruni completed the top six for new team Trident Racing, with Michael Ammermuller seventh for Arden International and Gommendy eighth for iSport International. The top ten was rounded out by Valles and Viso.


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