Rapax racer Pastor Maldonado has set the pace during the first test for the GP2 Main Series, having topped half the sessions in the 3 day test at the Paul Ricard HTTT in France.

The Paul Ricard test opens the 2010 GP2 Main Series championship, and it saw all 24 cars attend for all 3 days, completing the opening two days on the Bridgestone medium compound while finishing the 3 day collective test on the soft rubber.

The opening session of the test was a slow session, as constant drizzle made the track conditions tricky for all the drivers, and the teams had no choice but to use wet weather tyres, apart from Tridents new signing, another Venezuelan in the shape of Johnny Cecotto, who ran slicks towards the end of the session and ended the first three hour test fastest by 2.5 seconds, ahead of the Scuderia Coloni car of Alberto Valerio.

Five drivers only did a single installation lap in the opening session – both Rapax cars of Maldonado and Luiz Razia, the GP2 Asia Champions iSport International, with their drivers Davide Valsecchi and Oliver Turvey and the DPR car of Michael Herck.

The afternoon session saw the weather improve, as well as being red flagged four times. With the improvement in the weather saw an improvement in the lap times being set and all the cars were on slick tyres for the second session.

With 10 minutes of the afternoon session left, it was the Rapax car of Maldonado who took the fastest time of the day, a 1m12.897s, with rookie Jules Bianchi (ART Grand Prix) and Giedo van Der Garde (Barwa Addax) rounding out the top 3.

Day 2 – another configuration met the 24 GP2 runners, this time the 2A configuration at the track, one of the short hairpin configurations.

During the opening session, the Racing Engineering runner of Dani Clos topped the timing sheets, after setting a best time of 1m10.288s, with the inform Venezuelan Maldonado close behind at the end. GP2 rookies Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird (Both ART Grand Prix) had strong opening sessions, posting the third and fourth best times of the session. Clos's Racing Engineering team mate, Christian Vietoris rounded off the top 5 from the morning.

The afternoon session saw the ambient temperatures go down slightly, and it took Maldonado until 20 minutes before the end of the day to better the best time of the day, set by Clos. Clos also bettered his best time from the morning, but it wasn't as fast as Maldonado, who finished the day top by a tenth of a second from Clos, while the Super Nova Racing entry of Josef Kral set the third fastest time of the session, with the Racing Steps Foundation backed iSport International runner Oliver Turvey fourth fastest. Renault F1 reserve driver Ho Pin-Tung rounded out the top 5.

Only Clos and Maldonado were able to lap the 2A Configuration of the Paul Ricard track in less than 70 seconds.

Day 3 – on a third different configuration, this time 2D, a short, tight and technical configuration, giving the teams a chance to prepare or circuits like Monaco. The teams also had a change of tyre compound, as they had to run the soft Bridgestone tyre for this test.

The morning session saw the GP2 rookies take charge, with the ART Grand Prix cars of Bianchi and Bird topping the times, the former setting a best time of 1m10.268s, beating Bird's time of 1m10.323s. Racing Engineering continued their strong test as Vietoris set the third fastest time (1m10.431s) with Maldonado finishing the penultimate session fourth. Rounding out the top 5 was Super Nova Racing's young Swede, Marcus Ericsson. iSports Turvey and DAMS Pin-Tung had their times disqualified as their cars were found to be under weight.

The final session at the Paul Ricard track went the way of Maldonado, who completed a hat trick of afternoon session best times. As in the morning session, it was the day the rookies stood up and were counted.

The session was disrupted with 6 red flags shown, and in between all of the stoppages, young Czech racer Kral had secured the top spot before the impressive Vietoris took it from Kral with an hour to go.

Maldonado, however, was slowly creeping up the times and by the time the sixth red flag was shown, had made his way into second behind Vietoris, with just 15 minutes left of the 3 day test.

Once the session was green flagged for the final 15 minutes, Maldonado wasted no time in securing the fastest time of the day as he lapped the 2D Configuration in less than 70 seconds, one tenth faster than Bianchi, the only other driver to break the 70 second mark.

Rounding out the top 5 were Fabio Leimer (Ocean Racing Technology), Vietoris and Bird.

The final collective GP2 test is due to take place at Barcelona over the 7th to 9th April, ahead of the opening rounds of the 2010 GP2 Main Series which take place at Barcelona, alongside the FIA Formula One World Championship, on the 8th and 9th May.

Times for March 23rd:

Position Name Nationality Team Time AM Time PM
1 Pastor Maldonado VEN Rapax 1:12.987s
2 Jules Bianchi FRA ART Grand Prix 1:24.829s 1:13.074s
3 Giedo Van Der Garde NED Barwa Addax Team 1:21.993s 1:13.078s
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio BEL DAMS 1:25.138s 1:13.124s
5 Luiz Razia BRA Rapax 1:13.151s
6 Christian Vietoris GER Racing Engineering 1:21.281s 1:13.203s
7 Giacomo Ricci ITA DPR 1:13.215s
8 Josef Kral CZE Super Nova Racing 1:23.673s 1:13.224s
9 Dani Clos ESP Racing Engineering 1:23.368s 1:13.301s
10 Oliver Turvey GBR iSport International 1:13.331s
11 Adrian Zaugg RSA Trident Racing 1:22.089s 1:13.362s
12 Marcus Ericsson SWE Super Nova Racing 1:20.726s 1:13.437s
13 Michael Herck ROU DPR 1:13.455s
14 Sam Bird GBR ART Grand Prix 1:24.025S 1:13.472S
15 Sergio Perez MEX Barwa Addax Team 1:23.627s 1:13.523s
16 Fabio Leimer SUI Ocean Racing Technology 1:33.878s 1:13.560s
17 Davide Valsecchi ITA iSport International 1:13.654s
18 Johnny Cecotto VEN Trident Racing 1:14.674s 1:13.678s
19 Charles Pic FRA Arden International 1:23.619s 1:13.729s
20 Alberto Valerio BRA Scuderia Coloni 1:17.088s 1:13.803s
21 Rodolfo Gonzalez VEN Arden International 1:27.129s 1:13.964s
22 Ho-Pin Tung CHN DAMS 1:25.385s 1:14.067s
23 Max Chilton GBR Ocean Racing Technology 1:26.356s 1:14.817s
24 Vladimir Arabadzhiev BUL Scuderia Coloni 1:21.179s 1:15.242s

Times for day 2, March 24th:

Position Name Nationality Team Time AM Time PM
1 Pastor Maldonado VEN Rapax 1:10.375s 1:09.769s
2 Dani Clos ESP Racing Engineering 1:10.288s 1:09.876s
3 Josef Kral CZE Super Nova Racing 1:10.651s 1:10.045s
4 Oliver Turvey GBR iSport International 1:11.266s 1:10.082s
5 Ho-Pin Tung CHN DAMS 1:11.113s 1:10.160s
6 Sam Bird GBR ART Grand Prix 1:10.497s 1:10.164s
7 Davide Valsecchi ITA iSport International 1:10.792s 1:10.185s
8 Jerome D’Ambrosio BEL DAMS 1:10.934s 1:10.256s
9 Jules Bianchi FRA ART Grand Prix 1:10.481s 1:10.264s
10 Luiz Razia BRA Rapax 1:10.816s 1:10.276s
11 Adrian Zaugg RSA Trident Racing 1:11.318s 1:10.305s
12 Giedo Van Der Garde NED Barwa Addax Team 1:10.921s 1:10.326s
13 Alberto Valerio BRA Scuderia Coloni 1:11.030s 1:10.414s
14 Johnny Cecotto VEN Trident Racing 1:10.934s 1:10.423s
15 Vladimir Arabadzhiev BUL Scuderia Coloni 1:11.963s 1:10.485s
16 Charles Pic FRA Arden International 1:10.576s 1:10.500s
17 Sergio Perez MEX Barwa Addax Team 1:10.619s 1:10.579s
18 Michael Herck ROU DPR 1:10.838s 1:10.629s
19 Fabio Leimer SUI Ocean Racing Technology 1:11.355s 1:10.647s
20 Giacomo Ricci ITA DPR 1:10.746s 1:10.754s
21 Rodolfo Gonzalez VEN Arden International 1:11.095s 1:10.771s
22 Christian Vietoris GER Racing Engineering 1:10.532s 1:11.089s
23 Max Chilton GBR Ocean Racing Technology 1:11.304s
24 Marcus Ericsson SWE Super Nova Racing 1:11.343s

Times for Day 3, March 25th.

Position Name Nationality Team Time AM Time PM
1 Pastor Maldonado VEN Rapax 1:10.480s 1:09.784s
2 Jules Bianchi FRA ART Grand Prix 1:10.268s 1:09.899s
3 Fabio Leimer SUI Ocean Racing Technology 1:11.633s 1:10.022s
4 Christian Vietoris GER Racing Engineering 1:10.431s 1:10.033s
5 Sam Bird GBR ART Grand Prix 1:10.323s 1:10.117s
6 Josef Kral CZE Super Nova Racing 1:10.882s 1:10.143s
7 Marcus Ericsson SWE Super Nova Racing 1:10.532s 1:10.205s
8 Johnny Cecotto VEN Trident Racing 1:11.122s 1:10.256s
9 Dani Clos ESP Racing Engineering 1:10.559s 1:10.281s
10 Giedo Van Der Garde NED Barwa Addax Team 1:10.890s 1:10.320s
11 Charles Pic FRA Arden International 1:10.692s 1:10.330s
12 Luiz Razia BRA Rapax 1:10.899s 1:10.331s
13 Jerome D’Ambrosio BEL DAMS 1:10.661s 1:10.347s
14 Oliver Turvey GBR iSport International 1:10.375s
15 Adrian Zaugg RSA Trident Racing 1:11.526s 1:10.402s
16 Davide Valsecchi ITA iSport International 1:10.725s 1:10.452s
17 Max Chilton GBR Ocean Racing Technology 1:11.274s 1:10.459s
18 Michael Herck ROU DPR 1:10.867s 1:10.464s
19 Alberto Valerio BRA Scuderia Coloni 1:10.714s 1:10.672s
20 Rodolfo Gonzalez VEN Arden International 1:11.056s 1:10.710s
21 Giacomo Ricci ITA DPR 1:11.443s 1:10.746s
22 Sergio Perez MEX Barwa Addax Team 1:10.705s 1:10.775s
23 Vladimir Arabadzhiev BUL Scuderia Coloni 1:11.297s 1:11.062s
24 Ho-Pin Tung CHN DAMS 1:11.106s