Formula Renault 2.0 aces takes things one step further
The 2007 season is only just over and the teams are already back out on track! The Formula Renault 3.5 teams have returned to the Paul Ricard HTTT for three days of collective testing designed to assess drivers' abilities with a view to the 2008 season. This morning, the best drivers from Formula Renault 2.0 were invited by Renault Sport Technologies to try their hand the wheel of a Formula Renault 3.5.
Seemingly eager to get behind the wheel rather than daunted by the prospect of driving a car that is twice as powerful as what they have been used to in 2007, the thirteen drivers who accepted Renault Sport Technologies' invitation climbed into their cockpits for a minimum of 30 laps testing.
Those selected included the best drivers from Formula Renault 2.0: Brendon Hartley (Eurocup Champion), Charles Pic (3rd in the Eurocup), Franck Kechele (NEC Champion), Tobias Hegewald (NEC runner-up), Valtteri Bottas (3rd in NEC), Jules Bianchi (French Champion), Mathieu Arzeno (runner-up in the French Championship), Mika Maki (Italian Champion), Picho Toledano (leader of the Panam Championship) and Alex Imperatori (Champion of China in 2006). This select few were joined by Pedro Petiz (Eurocup Megane Trophy Champion), James Winslow (Formula V6 Asia Champion) and Karline Stala (Belgian Formula Renault 1.6 Champion), the first ever woman to win a single-seater championship!
At the close of the session, the fastest times had been set by the two Finns Bottas Valtteri (Cram Competition) and Mika Maki (Red Devil Comtec). Given that both drivers have made World Series Formula Renault 3.5 their priority for 2008, they could hardly have dreamt of making a better start!
What they said...
Bottas Valtteri (Cram Competition): "I felt totally comfortable with the car after only ten or so laps. The Formula Renault 3.5 is the best car I've ever driven. I was particularly astounded by the carbon brakes and the lateral grip in fast corners. I'm really amazed to have set the fastest time."
Mika Maki (Red Devil Comtec): "I had the impression I was getting faster with every lap I did! I've never driven a single-seater that performs so well. What impressed me most is the aerodynamic downforce, which is simply unbelievable. It's up to Red Bull to decide where my future lies, but for me it's a certainty that I would like to drive in World Series Formula Renault 3.5."
Jules Bianchi (Epsilon Euskadi): "Everything went well this morning and I made steady progress. I could have got more out of my new tyres, but the red flags disrupted things for me, as they did for many others."
Charles Pic (Tech 1 Racing): "There is a huge difference between this car and the Formula Renault 2.0. It is more powerful, but it is also heavier. I quickly got used to the straight-line speed, but the sections through the fast corners were more tricky. I picked things up little by little and I'm pretty happy with my time as I did not use my fresh tyres."
Alexandre Imperatori (Pons Racing): "I would like to thank Renault Sport for giving me this fine opportunity. The car is really sound and performs superbly. I have been really impressed with just how professional the Pons Racing team are."
Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport): "Things were pretty difficult to start with as I span once or twice, but things were better when I switched to fresh tyres. I set my fastest time on my first flying lap, but then I was stopped in my tracks by the red flags. It was an amusing experience, even though I realize that my immediate future will lie in F3. I am leaving tomorrow for Macau."
Pedro Petiz (GD Racing): "I'm delighted to finish with the 12th fastest time, because until now my only experience in single-seaters was a day in F3 in 2004. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the most out of the fresh tyres because of the red flags that were shown. It's going to be a rollercoaster week for me, as I will be testing the Saleen S7R Oreca on Friday."
Frank Kechele (RC Motorsport): "I spent the first ten laps getting used to the car and the circuit. After that I started to attack and had some good fun on the new tyres. The car is a real pleasure to drive, especially with the paddle-operated steering-wheel mounted gearshift."
Mathieu Arzeno (Draco Racing): "I really enjoyed this initial experience. I was expecting that the car would be more difficult to drive. It took me a little bit of time to get used to the left-foot braking. But I really enjoyed the final laps, especially in the faster bends. Even though I don't live far from here, I'd never driven on this circuit before."
James Winslow (KTR): "I've come here straight from Zuhaï and I'm really exhausted after these 27 laps! I had absolutely no trouble getting used to the car, but the red flags disrupted things for me a bit. The power of the engine made an impression on me compared to what I've been used to in the past."
Picho Toledano (Prema Powerteam): "I've now gone one better than my father Alfonso [former Formula Ford and F3 driver], who never drove such a powerful single-seater! With my partners, we are trying to put together a programme for Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2008."
Karline Stala (Fortec Motorsport): "I thought that the car would be easier to drive! But I soon realized that it was going to be very difficult. I made some progress as the laps went by and felt more confident by the end of the session." <pre> 1 VALTTERI BOTTAS Cram 47 01:16.450 2 MIKA MAKI Comtec 67 01:17.036 3 DANIIL MOVE Comtec 56 01:17.067 4 CRAIG DOLBY Fortec 62 01:17.151 5 JULES BIANCHI Epsilon Euskadi 51 01:17.200 6 PIPPA MANN Cram 40 01:17.293 7 BERTRAND BAGUETTE Draco Racing Team 44 01:17.419 8 CHARLES PIC Tech 1 49 01:17.427 9 ALEXANDRE IMPERATORI Pons 45 01:17.524 10 BRENDON HARTLEY Carlin 52 01:17.559 11 JOHNNY CECOTTO RC Msport 56 01:17.687 12 PEDRO PETIZ GD Racing 45 01:17.888 13 XAVIER MAASSEN KTR 44 01:18.118 14 FRANCK KHECHELE RC Msport 32 01:18.226 15 JONATHAN HIRSCHI Tech 1 45 01:18.650 16 MATHIEU ARZENO Draco Racing Team 39 01:18.692 17 TOBIAS HEGEWALD Interwetten 37 01:18.737 18 JAMES WINSLOW KTR 29 01:19.006 19 PICHO TOLENADO Prema FRenault 57 01:19.216 20 ALEIX ALCARAZ Pons 56 01:19.285 21 ROBERT MEHRI Epsilon Euskadi 26 01:19.346 22 SIMEON IVANOV Prema FRenault 40 01:19.986 23 DIMA RAIKHLIN Interwetten 13 01:22.195 25 KARLINE STALA Fortec 36 01:23.286