Curtain down in Catalunya!
The final round of the World Series Formula Renault 3.5 Championship took place in Barcelona last weekend. While Ryo Fukuda and Patrick Pilet came home from Spain without adding to the team's points tally, Tech 1 Racing has once more underlined its solid potential for the future.
The Tech 1 Racing team hoped to end the 2006 season on a high, with a repeat of the impressive results scored in Donington and at Le Mans. Nonetheless, team boss Simon Abadie sounded a note of caution before the final round. "Exactly seven months ago, we were here on this circuit for the very first time with a Formula Renault 3.5 car," he said. "Those early days were not entirely useful when it came to establishing a proper set-up, as we still had everything else to learn. So I think our lack of experience compared to everybody else will be a bigger problem here than on other circuits--"
The weekend did not get off to the best possible start. The two free practice sessions on Friday were interrupted by a small off-track excursion for Ryo and a technical problem for Patrick. This turned Saturday morning's qualifying session into a leap into the unknown for both drivers. It was no real surprise when the two black and white cars qualified towards the end of the grid for race one.
But the team did not relax its efforts, and tried hard to improve the set-up before Saturday's race. Unfortunately, this hard work came to nothing when Ryo clashed with Barba on the opening lap. Things were a lot more positive for Patrick, who overtook several cars en route to an eventual 14th place finish. Ryo's fortunes went from bad to worse when he was subsequently handed a 'drive through' penalty, to be taken within the first five laps of race two.
On Sunday morning, the team's qualifying pace showed a notable improvement. Ryo was on the seventh row on the grid, but Patrick had to reluctantly settle for the 10th row after both his flying laps were disrupted by red flags.
Once the race got underway, Ryo paid his penalty on the second lap. Racing with the bit between his teeth, the Japanese driver came in again on lap seven for a tyre change. Once more though, it was to end in an accident that forced him into retirement. Patrick's race was equally difficult, despite having made his obligatory tyre stop on the sixth lap. With a points finish proving impossible, the team decided to turn his race into a life-size test session. The Frenchman went on to make two more pit stops in order to try out different set-ups.
Simon Abadie commented: "We experienced the same sort of problems here as those we had in Istanbul. Even though we came away empty-handed in terms of results, I feel that we've done a lot better here thanks to our additional experience. Our lap times were amongst those of the leaders, but we suffered throughout the weekend from the setbacks we encountered in free practice. In any case, we have gained a lot of useful information, and we will come back even stronger in 2007."
While Barcelona marked the end of the championship season, winter testing will resume from November 8-9 at Paul Ricard. These two days will be devoted to assessing potential drivers for next year. Laurent Groppi, reigning French Formula Renault 2.0 champion, will therefore have his first experience of 3.5 power with Tech 1 Racing.
-credit: tech 1 racing