New Argentine Maestro Sets Jerez Pace

Jerez de la Frontera, November 5 - Tricky weather conditions made the free practice day a bit of a lottery as teams tried to prepare for the last-ever World Series by Nissan race this weekend. The three test sessions were all a little damp and left the competitors unsure of which settings they should try out. But at the end of the day it was promising Argentine driver who was fastest for Gabord Reyco.

Alvarez set his time on his very last lap of the day, at the end of the final (and driest) session at the Andalucian venue. The conditions obviously suited Alvarez's spectacular style! Another youngster, Adrian Valles, was next up. But the Pons Racing driver was over a second behind Alvarez.

"Everyone said I was driving like crazy," said Alvarez, who was at the track for the first time. "But I like to push! I think everyone was just taking it easy today. I feel good in the wet, but I think it will be hard to stay number one when it is dry."

Newly-crowned champion Heikki Kovalainen was third. The Finn is enjoying a relaxed weekend and expects better tomorrow, when his superior track knowledge will come into play if it is dry: "This is what I was hoping for," said Kovalainen. "Mixed conditions today and dry for qualifying tomorrow!"

Kovalainen has had recent experience at Jerez in a Formula 1 Renault, as has BAR formula 1 tester Enrique Bernoldi. But some of the other regular front-runners like the Carlin duo of Olivier Pla and Tiago Monteiro have never raced here. Pla (fourth) and Monteiro (thirteenth) said they learned nothing today as the track will be very different when it is dry.

Kovalainen is keen to end his championship year on a high note with more wins, but the likes of Felix Porteiro (Epsilon Euskadi) and Narain Karthikeyan (RC Motorsport) who came in fourth and sixth respectively today, will also be out to spoil the Pons driver's party.

<pre> 1. Juan Cruz Alvarez (ARG) 1.46.257 2. Adrian Valles (ESP) 1.47.591 3. Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) 1.48.914 4. Felix Porteiro (ESP) 1.49.278 5. Olivier Pla (FRA) 1.49.443 6. Narain Kartikheyan (IND) 1.49.979 7. Hiroki Yoshimoto (JAP) 1.50.077 8. Sergio Hernandez (SPA) 1.50.487 9. Karen Chandhok (IND) 1.50.683 10. Tristan Gommendy (FRA) 1.50.718

Qualifying takes place tomorrow, with the races on Sunday.