Joint practice specialist Tristan Gommendy (KTR) produced the day's outstanding performance on the Monza circuit. The French driver finished ahead of Markus Winkelhock (Draco Multiracing USA), one of his main rivals in the fight for the runner's up spot, behind champion Kubica. The third contender, Adrian Valles (Pons Racing), could do no better than eighth.
The meeting got underway with a inter-team football tournament organized by Interwetten.com. The final was won by Avelon Formula team, against Pons Racing. This morning, all the teams headed back to their pit garage to prepare for the day's two joint practice sessions: two hours this morning and forty-five minutes this afternoon.
Many drivers were taking to the track for the first time in a Formula Renault 3.5. The first session was held on a wet track, which did not make matters any easier for them. "It's a bit like been thrown in at the deep end, when you can't swim", explained British driver Jason Watts, who is racing for Eurointernational. "This is my first experience of the track, the car and the team. I have really enjoyed driving the Formula Renault 3.5. The car has a lot of potential and I think we can have a good weekend. In fact, I don't think I've ever driven a better car!"
At Interwetten.com, Carlos Iaconelli's assessment was identical: "It's not easy starting in the rain, but I improved significantly this afternoon in dry conditions. I am here to test out the car, with a view to taking part in the 2006 championship."
At Dams, Ferdinando Monfardini is the man making his debut in the category: "I had an operation just after the GP2 race in Bahrain. I decided to take part in this race to see if everything is okay before embarking on winter testing. The car is fun to drive. It corners extremely well thanks to the aerodynamics and the tyres. I think we're on the right track as regards the set-up."
Fourth debutant, Italian American Richard Antinucci feels at home in the Victory Engineering team: "The first couple of hours were frustrating. Whether you drive in the rain or don't drive, it makes little difference, really. In the end, the second session was a lot more productive, we made some good progress. And anyway, it's a good test for 2006."
The quickest man on the track today was Tristan Gommendy: "It's going well, but it's only Thursday today. I drove very well in both the wet and dry conditions. And although I didn't do that many laps this afternoon, I still managed to set the fastest time with worn tyres. I'll just have to reproduce that kind of form on Saturday with new tyres."
Second-fastest driver Markus Winkelhock (Draco Multiracing USA) also had a good day, as did his teammate Christian Montanari. Things went less well, however, for Adrian Valles (Pons Racing). Hampered by engine problems, the Spanish driver didn't bother putting on new tyres. But he remains confident for the rest of the weekend.
The real surprise of the day came from Patrick Pilet (GD Racing), consistently among the leading positions: "I was there or thereabouts in both the wet and dry conditions. We all worked well together: my engineer, my teammate and myself. Milos (Pavlovic) has often found himself alone in trying to improve the car. But things are better now!"
As for Robert Kubica, he appeared his usually calm and relaxed self: "I'd like to finish the season with a good performance this weekend. I'm not paying much attention to the times because everyone almost everybody was cutting across the chicane."