The 2008 Champ Car World Series season got under way with the first of three days of group testing at Sebring, but it was a newcomer to the series that headed the way.

Although he has tested in the past, Franck Montagny has yet to make his CCWS race debut, but stated a strong case for consideration ahead of the 2008 campaign after pacing the opening day in Florida while running with Forsythe/Pettit Racing. The Frenchman posted a best time of 50.788secs on his first acquaintance with the Panoz DP01 to put himself a mere 0.068secs clear of PKV Racing's Oriol Servia.

The Spaniard, already confirmed in the PKV seat for 2008, was the first driver on track as the test opened and also racked up the most laps during the day, topping the charts with 117.

Close behind Servia was Newman/Haas/Lanigan's new recruit Justin Wilson, who posted a best lap of 50.927secs on his first day in his new 'office'.

"It was a pretty good day," the Briton reported, "I was just learning to work with the team and learning the car. I think everything is going as planned - we will see how tomorrow goes, but I'm pleased with what happened today."

Another driver 'satisfied' with his day was 2007 Atlantic rookie of the year Franck Perera who, lining up behind the wheel of the #24 Conquest Racing entry, registered the fourth best time at 50.986secs in only his second Champ Car test.

"It was an interesting day, although a little hard physically because, since my last race in Atlantic, which was in August, I only did one test back in November," he admitted, "I should be good by the end of the test.

"I'm a bit surprised to be at the top to be honest. It's a new track for me, new people to work with and a new car. But everybody did a really good job to get everything prepared. The team is showing its potential and that it can fight for the top. However, today is only the first day and there is still a lot of testing time left, but it feels good to be with the top guys."

While Montagny may have been the driver at the top of the timesheet at the end of the day, it was Pacific Coast Motorsports' Alex Figge that had the fastest time of the morning session. The second-year driver's 51.097secs effort placed him fifth overall at the end of the day, ahead of NHLR's Graham Rahal.

"We didn't run new tyres at the end so, when you look at it like that, I think we were second or third before everybody put tyres on," Rahal explained, "The track is obviously pretty good and, overall, our cars are performing well right now. I'm happy because I'm never normally near the top in Sebring, so it's good for me!"

Alex Tagliani, who ended the day in seventh, was clearly happy to be working with PKV Racing - and with his on-track performance after a disappointing end to his 2007 campaign with Rocketsports.

"I'm ecstatic right now," the Canadian admitted, "I hadn't been in a car since November and, in the morning session, we were already third. Everything is going so well. This team is so professional, we're working on different set-ups for the car and they are very happy with the feedback I'm giving them. It's so much easier to work with a team when the chemistry is there right from the start and you don't have to build that up first. I think this team will definitely be contending for the championship."

Rounding out the top ten were Bruno Junqueira, driving for Dale Coyne Racing, Brazilian team-mate Mario Moraes and Forsythe Pettit Racing's Paul Tracy.

Leading performances (1 February) - Sebring:

Franck Montagny Forsythe Pettit 50.788secsOriol Servia PKV 50.856secsJusitn Wilson NHLR 50.927secsFranck Perera Conquest 50.986secsAlex Figge Pacific Coast 51.097secsGraham Rahal NHLR 51.104secsAlex Tagliani PKV 51.228secsBruno Junqueira Coyne 51.228secsMario Moraes Coyne 51.346secsPaul Tracy Forsythe Pettit 51.347secsDavid Martinez Pacific Coast 51.950secsErnesto Viso Minardi 51.973secsEnrique Bernoldi Rocketsports 52.019secsSimon Pagenaud Conquest 52.118secs

 

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