Kamui Kobayashi underlined his status as pre-season favourite for the second GP2 Asia campaign by topping the times in the one and only practice session for this weekend's opening round in China.

The Japanese ace set the pace in both the first 'winter' test for the regular GP2 Series and the two pre-season 'warm-up' days for the Asia Series, and continued his recent domination by lapping nearly half a second faster than anyone else at the Shanghai International Circuit in preparation for the opening double-header of season two.

Although qualifying will undoubtedly throw up its usual surprises, with just half an hour for the 26 drivers to post a competitive time, DAMS driver Kobayashi will enter the session as favourite for pole after setting a 1min 45.527secs benchmark for the series' first visit to China.

The second-year GP2 driver was 0.468secs clear of the equally experienced Roldan Rodriguez, having set his best time on only his third lap, the leading pair the only ones capable of breaking into the 1min 45secs bracket during the session.

Experience clearly told during the session, with Andreas Zuber and Javier Villa filling the next two spots and category 'veterans' Vitaly Petrov, Davide Valsecchi and Sakon Yamamoto all featuring in the top ten. Most impressive of the rookie, meanwhile, was new World Series by Renault champion Giedo van der Garde, who split the regulars in fifth spot, while Mika Maki and Hamad Al Farden both also made the top ten.

Despite running the all-new pairing of van der Garde and Al Fardan, GFH Team iSport was the only ones to have got both cars into the top ten as GP2 again proved to competitive. Only My Team Qi-Meritus Mahara, which competes solely in the Asia Series, had both cars towards the foot of the times, which were propped up by Fisichella Motorsport International's Kevin Nai Chia Chen. The local driver was nearly four seconds slower than Kobayashi, but had Carlos Iaconelli for company in the 1min 49s.

The session was red-flagged one minute before its scheduled end when Champ Car veteran Nelson Philippe stopped his ART entry at turn 13 following a minor technical problem. The Frenchman, who slips into the seat previously occupied by inaugural season champion Romain Grosjean, ended the session on 15th spot.



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