DAMS driver Kamui Kobayashi topped both session on the opening day of the first GP2 Series group test of the off-season at Paul Ricard as a mix of experienced runners and hopefuls enjoyed a largely trouble-free outing.

Having set the pace with a lap of 1min 13.278secs during the morning session, Kobayashi found another tenth after lunch to ensure that he remained at the head of the 26-name field.

The closest anyone got the Japanese ace was the surprising Alberto Valerio who, after a season littered with incidents, managed to post second-fastest time in both of the day's sessions. Like Kobayashi, the Brazilian - trying out with Piquet Sports after spending the year with Durango - improved in the afternoon, ending the day with a 1min 13.393secs best.

Indeed, as expected, the majority of fastest times came during the later session, with Monza winner Davide Valsecchi taking third for Durango - with whom he will contest both the Asia and summer series in 2008-09, - ahead of Diego Nunes, impressive in the proven iSport machine, and the seasoned Vitaly Petrov.

The remainder of the top ten featured some unfamiliar faces as British F3 points leader Oliver Turvey and former F3 Euroseries champion-turned-DTM racewinner Paul di Resta defied their rookie status to put both ART Grand Prix cars into the leading group, along with Piquet Sports returnee Roldan Rodriguez, F3 ace Sergio Perez (Barwa International Campos) and Racing Engineering's Luiz Razia.

There were a couple of driver changes between sessions, with Andreas Zuber handing his Fisichella car over to Italian driver Fabrizio Crestani, and rookie Bertrand Baguette being replaced by fellow newcomer Dani Clos at BCN, but everyone else had a full day to get used to the car or new teams. Zuber was fourth fastest in the morning session, with Baguette 14th, while Crestani and Clos managed 19th and 17th respectively after lunch.

Among the more intriguing combinations on show were former Champ Car racewinner Nelson Philippe at iSport and sometime F1 backmarker Narain Karthikeyan at Trident - the Frenchman breaking the morning top ten - while young pretenders such as F3 stars Renger van der Zande, Sam Bird, Koudai Tsukakoshi, Will Bratt, Christian Ebbesvik and James Jakes all joining Turvey and di Resta in getting a chance to sample GP2 power. Bird showed most strongly, flying to fifth fastest time for DAMS in the early session.

Also out were the unlikely additions of Bulgarian Vladimir Arabadzhiev, at Super Nova, and Taiwan's Kevin Nai Chia Chen, although the latter brought the afternoon session to an early halt when he crashed his Fisichella car at the back straight chicane.



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