Edwards quickest in free practice for Super World Series by Nissan season finale
The top drivers racing in Europe outside of Formula 1 began practicing at Jarama today ahead of this weekend's season finale of the Superfund World Series by Nissan.
American KTR driver Paul Edwards has not had the best of seasons, but he reversed his recent form to set the fastest time in free practice.
Edwards set a great pace, lapping 0.4s quicker than Ricardo Zonta's 2002 lap record, despite cold conditions and a slippery track. But although it was a great result, he knows that he has to repeat the showing when it matters, in Saturday's qualifying sessions.
"The car feels good, but it's only practice," he said. "I feel really relaxed behind the wheel and I hope I can continue this form tomorrow."
It was a good day for KTR, with Spaniard Felix Porteiro setting the third best time. Gabord Competicion's Heikki Kovalainen was the meat in the KTR sandwich, trailing Edwards by 0.2s in second place. His French team-mate Franck Montagny missed the sessions as he is testing for the Renault Formula 1 team in Valencia, but the Finn revelled in his absence, setting the second best time in both 45-minute sessions.
"I want to end the season with another win," he said. "Of course, second place in the championship would be nice too."
Jean Christophe Ravier was fourth fastest for Epsilon Euskadi just ahead of series returnee, Antonio Garcia, who did a great job for Adrian Campos Motorsport to record the fifth best time. The other series newcomers, Enrico Toccacelo and Pablo Donoso had more troubled times, however.
Aboard an RC Motorsport car, Toccacelo had a spin the first session, but still set the 11th best time. He improved by over a second, but dropped back to 13th in the final standings. Nevertheless, he was only 0.3s down on his experienced team-mate Polo Villaamil, winner of the last round at Valencia.
World Series Lights graduate Donoso had gearbox problems in the first session in his GD Racing car. The Chilean was helped out when the new-for- 2004 team, Porefesa Competiticion, loaned him the rear from their ex-Meycom Racing cars. This allowed Donoso to take part in the second session and he took over 1.5s off his earlier time, although he was still the slowest of the 18 runners.
With eight drivers fighting over second place in the standings, tomorrow's two qualifying sessions are going to be crucial. Kovalainen has shown he will be a major contender, but Stephane Sarrazin, seventh quickest for Racing Engineering, Tata Team Carlin's Narain Karthikeyan and GD Racing's Enrique Bernoldi will all be pushing hard for the coveted runner-up spot.
World Series Lights
The World Series Lights is a breeding ground for the champions of the future and its shining star of 2003, Juan Cruz Alvarez, once again showed his class in free practice at Jarama. The Argentinean Meycom Reyco driver has already wrapped up the title, but he showed he intends to finish on a high by setting the pace in the second free practice session at Jarama.
However, it was Epsilon by Graff's Milos Pavlovic who ended the day at the top of the times. The Yugoslavian lies second in the standings and looks set to defend his position and his Friday showing. Team-mate Julien Vidot is his main rival, and his hopes were raised by setting the pace in the first session, before dropping back to fourth overall.
Series newcomer, Dutchman Paul Meijer continued his strong pre-race testing form by finishing the day in third for Vergani Racing.
The highly-competitive Spanish Formula Junior championship always attracts a bumper entry and 19 cars took part in Friday's three practice sessions. Escuele Lois Circuit's Marco Barba was the star of the day, setting the best time in two of the three. Porfesa Competicion's Roldan Rodriquez set the early pace, but Barba upped the ante to out-pace his rival by 0.2s.
New series champion Juan Antonio del Pino did not feature as strong as usual for G-TEC and was back in an unfamiliar 13th place. He will be looking for a big improvement in Saturday's qualifying sessions.
Racc Motorsport's Christian Cano, who lies second in the standings, took fifth slot, while his principal rival for the runner-up position, Cibiemme Team's Giacomo Ricci was back in ninth.
With so much still to play for. Qualifying should be a fascinating duel between some of the most exciting young talents in Europe.
<pre> Superfund World Series by Nissan Free Practice times 1. Paul Edwards KTR 1m23.192s 2. Heikki Kovalainen Gabord Competicion +0.207s 3. Felix Porteiro KTR +0.250s 4. Jean Christophe Ravier Epsilon Euskadi +0.478s 5. Antonio Garcia Adrian Campos Motorsport +0.541s 6. Bruce Jouanny Carlin Motorsport +0.563s 7. Stephane Sarrazin Racing Engineering +0.583s 8. Polo Villaamil RC Motorsport +0.659s 9. Enrique Bernoldi GD Racing +0.674s 10. Angel Burgueno Respol Racing for Spain Vergani +0.676s 11. Narain Karthikeyan Tata Team Carlin +0.848s 12. Bruno Besson Saulnier Racing +0.863s 13. Enrico Toccacelo RC Motorsport +0.905s 14. Bas Leinders Racing Engineering +1.084s 15. Didier Andre Saulnier Racing +1.120s 16. Ander Vilarino Epsilon Euskadi +1.207s 17. Santiago Porteiro Adrian Campos Motorsport +2.102s 18. Pablo Donoso GD Racing +2.569s