Fast-rising young New Zealand racing driver Earl Bamber got his preparations for the second round of the 2008/09 GP2 Asia championship series this weekend off to the best possible start yesterday by outshining early series pace-setter Kamui Kobayashi to annex the top spot in free practice.

Though it was his first visit to the Dubai Autodrome circuit the 18-year-old from Wanganui set a best time of 1.44.048 to pip Kobayashi by 1/1000ths of a second with Davide Valsecchi third and Jerome d'Ambrosio fourth.

As the GP2 Series website said; 'the impressive young driver from MY Qi-Meritus.Mahara (Bamber) proves once again that he is a man to watch.'

Kobayashi, who drives for the Dam's team was back on top in the qualifying session, claiming pole position with a time of 1.41.091 with Bamber admitting to not getting the best out of his second set of tyres and slipping back to 16th position.

However for the first five laps of the session, on his first set of tyres, the young New Zealand driver held the pole time, boding well for the races over the weekend.

Bamber heads into this weekend's second series round holding fourth place in the series points standings after finishing sixth in the first race and runner-up in the second at the first round of the 2008/09 series at Shaghai on October this year.