IMPRESSIVE SHOWING FOR HYLKEMA DURING FINAL GP3 TEST OF YEAR
Jerez in Spain hosted the final GP3 Series test of the year this week with Dutchman Thomas Hylkema delivering another strong showing for the Manor Racing team as he prepares to graduate to the FIA Formula One World Championship support class for the 2011 season.
After plying his trade in the ultra-competitive Formula Renault UK Championship for the past three years, the 22-year-old from Delft in The Netherlands is all set to move up the motor racing ladder into GP3 and continued to improve well at the wheel of one of Manor's cars in Jerez.
Making his category debut at Estoril in Portugal last week, Thomas returned to the Manor fold for three more days of testing in the final GP3 outing of 2010 and progressed impressively as he got to grips more and more with the Renault engined Dallara and Pirelli tyres.
Focusing on learning the track and getting reacquainted with the car during the opening sessions on Wednesday, 20th October, Thomas produced his most competitive performance of the test during the morning of Thursday, 21st October. Posting a best lap of 1m35.628 seconds to go 14th fastest, out of 30 competitors in total, he ran within just 0.3 seconds of Manor's quickest driver at that point.
During the final two sessions on Friday, 22nd October, the TORO, Club Car and Geothex backed racer was again consistently strong and actually set his best time of the three days during the morning with a lap of 1m35.545 seconds -- placing Thomas within just 0.8 seconds of the outright pace.
Reflecting on his experience at Jerez -- his first ever run at the Spanish track -- Thomas said: "It's been a great test, the aim was to be up in the first half of the field and we managed to do that pretty consistently over the last two days. The nature of the track is different to that of Estoril, there are more quick corners at Jerez, so I spent most of the first day learning the circuit and the car still.
"We steadily improved and then on Thursday we had some very good runs on old tyres, our pace was good and most of the time I was only three or four 10ths of a second away from the quickest Manor car. I managed to match my team-mates occasionally and sometimes be faster too so that felt great."
He added: "We did some good set-up work, the team was really professional as always, and I really feel I've got to grips quite well with the car. I'm very happy with what we achieved, I'm there in the mid-pack, so now I need to work hard on my fitness over the winter ahead of the new season."