Baguette back for more!
Crowned champion at the Nurburgring round of the championship, International Draco Racing's Bertrand Baguette arrived at the season finale free from any pressure, setting the fastest lap in collective testing. At a circuit on which all the drivers are racing for the first time, Epsilon Euskadi's Chris Van der Drift and Prema Powerteam's Julian Leal took opportunity to shine, finishing second and third.
The mission for all the drivers today was to get to grips with the new Motorland Aragon circuit. The track is a challenging 5.436 kilometers, designed by Herman Tilke. For the last round of Formula Renault 3.5 Series this season, Greg Mansell joins the ranks of Comtec Racing. RC Motorsport lines up two cars driven by Esteban Guerrieri, winner of one race in Formula Renault 3.5 Series last season, and Spain's Bruno Mendez.
After a few reconnaissance laps, Mofaz Fortec Motorsport's Sten Pentus was the first to set a fastest lap with a time of 1'51"112. Before long, the lap times had begun to improve rapidly. Pons Racing's Marcos Martinez was quick to move to the top of the timesheet in 1'48"716, just as the first red flag of the day was flown when Mendez span off.
When the green flag was shown, Esteban Guerrieri was the first to make a splash in 1'48"380, and led the dance ahead of Interwetten.com Racing's Salvador Duran and 2009 champion Bertrand Baguette. Martinez reclaimed the lead in 1'47"710 before the session was interrupted once more, this time when Duran crashed out. The hierarchy began to change as the track conditions improved, Baguette setting the final fastest lap of the morning ahead of Guerrieri, Carlin Motorsport's Jaime Alguersuari, KMP Group SG Formula's Anton Nebylitskiy and Comtec Racing's Jon Lancaster.
The second session got off to a flying start as Baguette once more went on the offensive, beating his earlier time, only to go faster on the next lap. With a time of 1'46"320, he led P1 Motorsport's Daniil move and Comtec Racing's Jon Lancaster. The 2009 Formula Renault 3.5 Series Champion continued to rack up flying laps. With a lap of 1'46"212, he had set the bar high for his challengers. Not content with his performance, the Belgian had one last crack at the stopwatch towards the end of the session. His time of 1'45"651 meant he had managed to raise the bar even further! Jon Lancaster was in second place, almost one second behind the International Draco Racing driver.
The fight back came in the form of Greg Mansell and Julian Leal. The Briton climber to second place, but was immediately knocked off by Julian Leal. Then Mansell span out, causing the session to be interrupted a fourth time. Chris Van der Drift made his feelings clear, with a time of 1'45"273. This was the last enough for Baguette who reclaimed his lead in 1'45"053. At the close of the session, he led Van der Drift, Leal, Lancaster and Martinez. Quote, unquote:
Bertrand Baguette: "It's an exciting circuit. You can really hit the rumble strips without too much trouble. The car was performing well on new and old tyres alike. I won't be driving differently just because I'm the Champion. We've got the teams title to win too!"
Chris Van der Drift: "I'm really pleased with my time. I didn't use the simulator, so it was a real discovery for me today. My aim is to qualify for the SuperPole tomorrow; it would be my first this season! Since Nurburgring, we've really felt like we're more competitive. Now I need to go out there and prove it."
Greg Mansell: "I'm working with a new team this weekend. The decision to race for Comtec was made two days ago, so I'm very happy to be here. The track lacked some grip today, but it's new, so that's normal. It'll improve as the weekend goes on. The circuit is really terrific."