Thomas Hylkema made a positive start to his prospective GP3 Series career at Estoril in Portugal last week and concluded the final afternoon of the three-day official winter test within an impressive 0.8 seconds of the outright pace.

Planning to graduate to the FIA Formula One World Championship-supporting category for the 2011 season, the 22-year-old Dutchman got his first taste of the Renault-powered Dallara on Wednesday, 13th October, with the race winning Manor Racing team.

Remaining with the Virgin Racing affiliated squad throughout the entire test, Thomas improved markedly over the three days and produced a fastest time of 1m31.815 seconds on Friday morning to lap within eight 10ths of a second of the outright pace.

On Friday afternoon the Club Car, TORO and Geothex supported racer ended the session within 0.8 seconds of the top three but would almost certainly have been closer to the overall pace had his new tyre run not been compromised by a broken exhaust.

"All three days were really enjoyable, I had some great coaching from Marc Hynes and the whole team is very professional -- it's been a fantastic introduction to GP3", said the Formula Renault UK graduate, "I was really unfortunate on my last new tyre run as the exhaust broke but Friday was still a great day -- to be within eighth 10ths of the pace in the morning was good going.

"I've definitely learned a lot over the course of the test and I'm really looking forward to the run at Jerez this week. The GP3 car has a lot more performance than the Formula Renault I've been used to, it doesn't feel hugely quicker when you're at the wheel but that's because it's quite heavy. It's a great car to drive and I was pleased with how I got used to the Pirelli tyres quite well."

Last week's test outing provided Thomas with a great fillip after a frustrating conclusion to his final event in Formula Renault UK the weekend prior, 9th/10th October, at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in the south east of England.

Having endured far more than his fair share of problems during the year, the Delft-based racer did hope to finish the 2010 season on a high. But after being run off the circuit in the first race, he was unable to take the start of the last encounter with his car failing to be repaired in time.

"Brands Hatch was a really frustrating weekend", added Thomas, "We went in with high hopes and I really wanted to have a strong finish to the season but after (Fabio) Gamberini took me off in the first race I wasn't able to even start race two as the team (Manor Competition) couldn't repair the car in time. That was disappointing and frustrating but that's behind me now -- I'm looking ahead!"

Thomas will run with Manor Racing again during the second three-day GP3 Series test at Jerez in Spain this week, 20th/21st/22nd October.