As the A1 teams made their final preparations for round two of the 2008-2009 championship in Chengdu, China next week it was the home event team and Team Portugal who tested for the first time in the UK at Silverstone today. They were joined by the teams from Brazil, France, Korea and Switzerland, with the latter setting the pace.
Ho-Pin Tung and Congfu Cheng were both behind the wheel for A1 Team China, the pair both having claimed a podium finish for the team as it continues to chase its maiden victory. Tung was recalled to race in the season-opener at Zandvoort last month opening China's Season Four campaign.
With the announcement yet to be made on who will get the chance to represent the team for their home event, they both had the chance to put the car through its paces today.
"These were the only dry laps we have done so far in this car" Tung commented after running in the morning session. "So we are still sorting out the base set up and things like that to be well prepared for our home race in Chengdu. It's a very nice car to drive though, very stable and impressive at high speeds.
"It all starts again in China though and you have to show you and your team mean business. Compared to many of the other teams, we still have less kilometres on the car but we are very happy to rack up some kilometres on the dry track today. It has been a good day to do some catching up so hopefully this will help us for Chengdu."
Cheng took over for the afternoon session in what was his first run in the new car: "It is very good and the acceleration is very smooth," he commented. "The tyres and whole aerodynamics are so different to the first generation car. I had a good test today but only did 20 laps so I am looking forward to the future if I can get in the car again."
After a bright, sunny start to the day, a brief hail storm in the afternoon brought an early end to the day as the bitter temperatures prevented any further dry track running. Switzerland's Neel Jani (pictured) posted a lap of 46.098-seconds which proved quickest of the day, 0.371s quicker than Portugal. However, this was still slower than the time set last Thursday at the track by Team Ireland of 45.554secs.
"We just carried on where we left off from the test last Thursday," said Jani. "We tried different things and I'm pretty pleased with how we got on.
"Like last time, we didn't really go for a lap time, we were trying different things with the set up and just learning. We would have liked to do a high fuel run this afternoon, but it started hailing so we'll have to do that in Chengdu. Finally I have got some testing though so I understand more about the car, about the brakes and about how it should feel. There is still a lot of potential to go quicker though."
France, who is also yet to confirm its driver for Chengdu, returned to Silverstone today with regular rookie Nicolas Prost back in the cockpit for a second day's testing.
Prost said: "The car is much more stable and much quicker than the old one, which is why it's easier to drive but you have to go quick and really push very hard. We have been very competitive here and I got a grasp of the car pretty quickly."
Asked how it would feel if he were called up to race for his nation he commented: "I would be really proud to race for my country. It would be a lot of pressure though, as it means people believe in you, so you would have to deliver something good!"
A1 Team Portugal was also on track today with Filipe Albuquerque posting a time of 46.415-seconds.
"The car feels amazing," said Albuquerque. "I'm still learning about the car and making some changes but it's definitely very good.
"My goal here is to get confident with the car and to put as much mileage on it as possible. Also I want to see how it behaves on the bumps, as I heard Chengdu is quite bumpy so it's good to see how the car behaves in these conditions."
A1 Teams Brazil and Korea also took advantage of the final test session in the UK, following on from the extra running they had last Thursday, before heading to China tomorrow.
A1 Teams India, Mexico and Great Britain, who have just announced Danny Watts will drive for the team in Chengdu, have still not tested their chassis, but their cars will be in the freight that leaves the UK on Saturday to go to China. The A1GP organisers will allot extra testing time to these teams next week at the Chengdu International Circuit prior to official practice.