WSR

Estoril: Series Friday notes

Barba to settle the duel? By setting the best time in collective testing, Alvaro Barba (Draco Racing) is shaping up as one of the drivers best placed to settle the duel between Alvaro Parente (Tech 1 Racing) and Ben Hanley (Prema Powerteam).

Barba to settle the duel?

By setting the best time in collective testing, Alvaro Barba (Draco Racing) is shaping up as one of the drivers best placed to settle the duel between Alvaro Parente (Tech 1 Racing) and Ben Hanley (Prema Powerteam). Fairuz Fauzy (Cram Competition) and Filipe Albuquerque (Epsilon Euskadi), who both looked comfortable yesterday, have confirmed they are on good form.

After a first day of action to get the feel of the track, things were much faster at the Estoril circuit today. Taking advantage of the lower temperatures this morning, all the drivers set their fastest times in the opening 55-minute session. On his first run, Bertrand Baguette (KTR) went faster than 1'28''. In an effort to simulate a performance under qualifying conditions, the young Belgian driver just kept on getting better lap after lap in the end setting a time to beat of 1'26''437.

Hot on his heels, his teammate Guillaume Moreau then went one better with a lap in 1'26''206. Winner of the last race in Magny-Cours, the Frenchman is hoping to extend his run in Estoril: "I had a difficult day yesterday as I was keeping my fresh tyres for the Friday morning session. This allowed us to switch from one set of fresh tyres to another in quick succession. I didn't really get a clear track on my second run but I now know that we are performing well here once again."

After half an hour, Alvaro Barba put in a lap in 1'25''855, the best time yet over these two days of collective testing. As someone who always seems to perform well in qualifying, the man from Seville certainly lived up to his reputation: "The car was perfectly well-balanced and I only used one set of tyres. I don't think I'd have improved much on a second set so we decided to keep them for another time!"

With nineteen drivers all within the space of a second, this session confirmed just how well-matched the competition is in World Series Formula Renault 3.5. Fauzy, Albuquerque and Aleshin all confirmed their good performances yesterday were no fluke. Epsilon Euskadi also managed to place Davide Valsecchi in the top five: "I hope to be in with a shout of pole position on the strength of our performance this morning."

After falling victim to electronics problems yesterday, Ben Hanley made it back up to the front-runners by setting the sixth fastest time of the day: "Despite our concerns, I was able to confirm that the car is now handling well. Today we tested two types of settings and we are currently analyzing the data to decide on our qualifying set-up. I feel even better than I did in Magny-Cours and I'm ready to fight it out for the title."

Alvaro Parente, in contrast, seems to have been having problems since the start of the meeting. Despite a modest 18th fastest time, the driver from Porto now seems on the right course, setting the fourth fastest time in the second session: "We are finding ourselves in difficulty on certain sections of the circuit, but we are working on the data to try and find the right set-up. I am neither worried nor optimistic. We will see what happens tomorrow in qualifying."

Only 29 drivers will be lining for the start of the penultimate meeting of the season: Charlie Kimball has been forced to pull out with a diabetes problem. The American nevertheless hopes to be fit for the Barcelona meeting. His teammate Giedo van der Garde will therefore have to defend the honour of Victory Engineering single-handedly in Portugal.

-credit: wsbyrenault.com

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