Gabord Competicion's Franck Montagny has already sewn up the Superfund World Series by Nissan title, but a fierce seven-way battle rages for second position in the standings. First blood at Valencia was taken this weekend by Tata Team Carlin's Narain Karthikeyan, who set the pace on the opening day of practice.
Karthikeyan, like all 19 drivers present, set his best lap in the second of the two sessions. He is confident of converting his form into a good qualifying pace on Saturday.
"If I can put a lap together it should be okay," he said. "I really need to get my first win if I am to achieve my aim of finishing second in the championship."
New champion Montagny did not run in the first session, but in spite of his lack of track time he finish up second fastest, just 0.02 behind Karthikeyan. In fact, Europe's fastest single seater championship outside Formula 1 produced yet another highly competitive session, with the top six covered by less than 0.2s.
RC Motorsport's Polo Vilaamil had a strong run to set the third best time ahead of ex-Arrows grand prix driver, GD Racing's Enrique Bernoldi. Racing Engineering's pair of Bas Leinders and Stephane Sarrazin, who are also fighting for second in the standings, were fifth and sixth quickest.
Two more of the seven runner-up contenders, Jean Christophe Ravier (Epsilon Euskadi) and Heikki Kovalainen, who like Gabord team-mate Montagny missed the opening session, were next up in seventh and eighth. It was not such a good session for the seventh contender, Ravier's team-mate, and winner of the last round at Barcelona, Ander Vilarino. The Basque driver was only 11th, over a second slower than Karthikeyan.
Le Mans 24 Hours winner, Guy Smith, was a respectable 17th on his first outing for Zele Racing, who return to the series after missing the Barcelona races. Former Zele driver Norbert Siedler was 13th fastest for RC Motorsport and is now fully recovered from the illness that forced him to sit out the last race.
WORLD SERIES LIGHTS: Alvarez out in front
Championship leader, Meycom Reyco's Juan Cruz Alvarez, was fastest in both sessions of World Series Lights practice to make himself as the favourite for pole position in Saturday's qualifying. His advantage over second fastest man, Epsilon by Graff's Julien Vidot, increased between sessions to an impressive 0.382s.
Vidot's team-mate Milos Pavlovic was a lowly ninth in opening practice, but improved substantially to end the day in third. Mathias Lauda was fourth quickest overall, and the best of the three Vergani Racing cars. Team-mates Pablo Donoso and Milka Duno, were back in ninth and 11th.
RC Motorsport's Ananda Mikola was an encouraging third in the first session, but was back in fifth overall. Former championship leader Adrian Valles will be looking to make a big step forward in performance for qualifying. The Escuela Lois Circuit driver was only sixth fastest, 0.8s behind Alvarez.
The highly competitive Formula Junior class was headed by Roldan Rodriquez (Porfesa Competicio). The young Spaniard made a big improvement between sessions to set the quickest time ahead of championship leader Juan Antonio del Pino, who was second fastest in both.
Racc Motorsport's Christian Cano was quickest after the first 45-minute session, but finished up third overall, half a second behind Rodriquez. Cano's team-mate Hector Suarez was fourth fastest, but Barcelona winner Carlos Gonzalez and his Cracs team will have some head-scratching to do tonight after setting only the 18th best time.
Superfund World Series by Nissan practice times:
Narain Karthikeyan Tata Team Carlin 1m23.583s
Franck Montagny Gabord Competicion +0.020s
Polo Villaamil RC Motorsport +0.111s
Enrique Bernoldi GD Racing +0.188s
Bas Leinders Racing Engineering + 0.168s
Stephane Sarrazin Racing Engineering +0.197s
Jean Christophe Ravier Epsilon Euskadi +0.506s
Heikki Kovalainen Gabord Competicion +0.524s
Bruno Besson Saulnier Racing +0.703s
Didier Andre Saulnier Racing +0.712s
World Series Light
Juan Cruz Alvarez 1'27.111
Julien Vidot 1'27.493
Milos Pavlovic 1'27.631
Mathias Lauda 1'27.734
Ananda Mikola 1'27.932
Andrian Valles 1'27.972
Celso Miguez 1'28.025
Matteo Pellegrino 1'28.104
Pablo Donoso 1'28.443
Alvaro Barba 1'28.571
Campeonato de España de Formula Junior
Roldan Rodriguez 1'42.335
Juan Antionio del Pino 1'42.606
Christian Cano 1'42.928
Hector Suarez 1'43.259
Carlos Alvarez 1'43.272
Giaccomo Ricci 1'43.280
Marco Barba 1'43.394
Michael Hercks 1'43.514
Arturo Llobell 1'43.589
Victor Joven 1'43.702