Nelson Panciatici rekindles Lotus flame!
The Formula Renault 3.5 Series 2010 season started to come to life today with the first collective testing session, organized at the Barcelona circuit. The line-up of twenty four drivers taking part today augured some very open racing this season, with fifteen of the cars all in the same second. Victor Garcia (KMP Racing) put in the quickest performance this morning, while it was Nelson Panciatici (Junior Lotus Racing) who took the fastest lap of the day in the closing half hour.
The Barcelona circuit welcomed the competitors in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series for the first two days of Collective Testing of the season. Final recruits announced by teams to join the line-up were Jean-Eric Vergne (SG Formula), Marcos Martinez (SG Formula), Jake Rosenzweig (Carlin), Daniel Zampieri (Pons Racing), Sergio Canamasas (Fortec Motorsport), Bruno Mendez (ISR) and Victor Garcia. Drivers took to the track in wet conditions on Thursday morning to complete the very first laps of the season.
The sun quickly helped dry the racing line, and as soon as the drivers switched to slicks the lap times started to come down. Best time never stopped changing hands, and in the last hour of the morning session, Mikhail Aleshin (Carlin), celebrating his return to the discipline, Nathanael Berthon (International Draco Racing), Federico Leo (Pons Racing), Stefano Coletti (Comtec Racing), Keisuke Kunimoto (Epsilon Euskadi), Brendon Hartley (Tech 1 Racing) and Jean-Eric Vergne, all took their turns on top.
As the chequered flag came down, Spanish driver Victor Garcia had pipped everyone to the post with his last flying lap of 1'34''455, thereby offering team KMP Racing an early taste at the top of the timing charts for their very first participation in a collective testing session. Nathanael Berthon and Daniel Zampieri made up the top 3.
After a fairly quiet first hour in the afternoon, drivers opted to fit new rubber relatively early. First off, it was Keisuke Kunimoto (Epsilon Sport) who shot to the top spot with 1'34''643. The Japanese driver was quickly to be ousted by Jean-Eric Vergne then Daniel Ricciardo (Tech 1 Racing). With 1'34''336, the Red Bull F1 reserve driver was the first to beat the time set by Victor Garcia that morning. But the Spaniard was quick to hit back, reclaiming his place on top of the timing charts with a 1'34''236 lap.
Most drivers waited for the last hour to make a final assault on the stopwatch, on new tires. However, several red flag incidents were to interrupt best laid plans, in particular a coming together between Albert Costa (Epsilon Euskadi) and Nathanael Berthon. In the end, it was Frenchman Nelson Panciatiaci who got the upper hand in the last 30 minutes. He upped the tempo, improving overall best lap several times to end the day at the top of the pecking order, lapping in 1'33'975.
Nelson Panciatici: "This is my first real day's work with the Junior Lotus Racing team, so I'm very pleased to start off our collaboration with the quickest lap of the day. It's very motivating for things to come!" Today we weren't looking for performance - we were working on getting me installed in the car. The signs are very good."
Victor Garcia: "I signed up with KMP Racing last week for the whole season. It's been a very good first day. The team is very young and everyone is very motivated and raring to go. At the end I was checking the car out in its light aerodynamic configuration. It's pretty surprising at first, but still very effective. I'll have to learn to manage that."
Daniel Ricciardo: "It's been a back-to-work day! We've not really worked on the setup yet, but the performance is there. I think we'll be quicker tomorrow."
Jean-Eric Vergne: "I'm very happy to be taking part in the FR3.5 Series in addition to my British F3 program. I prepared physically this winter to be able to combine both programs. My aim is to win the F3 title and create one or two surprises in the FR 3.5 Series. And it's perfect for me to be able to count on an experienced partner like Marcos Martinez."