Merhi on top in all conditions!

Formula Renault 3.5 collective testing continued at the Paul Ricard HTTT today. The Spanish driver Roberto Merhi (Epsilon Euskadi) came to the fore, setting the fastest time this morning, on a dry track, and again this afternoon, on a wet one.

Despite the threatening appearance of the sky, the track remained dry this Thursday morning. Amongst the drivers in action at today's Formula Renault 3.5 Series event were the two leading drivers from British Formula 3, Jaime Alguersuari and Oliver Turvey, both driving for Carlin Motorsport. Nelson Panciatici, currently second in Spanish F3, took the wheel of a Tech 1 Racing single-seater for the first time. Third in Formula Renault 2.0 UK, Adriano Buzaid also took part with Fortec Motorsport.

After performing well yesterday, Greg Mansell (Ultimate-Signature) took a rain check today to recover from the physical exertion. He will be back behind the wheel tomorrow, under the watchful eye of his world-renowned father, Nigel Mansell.

Experience paid off at the start of the morning session. Marco Barba (International Draco Racing) dominated proceedings ahead of Miguel Molina (Epsilon Euskadi) and James Walker (Ultimate-Signature). However, Roberto Merhi quickly managed to shake up the standings, seizing first place in 1'16''343, ahead of Charles Pic (Tech 1 Racing), who then dropped to second place, and Max Chilton (Red Devil Team Comtec). Fresh tyres were ready for the end of the session; but the heavens then burst open to interrupt everyone's hard work.

In the afternoon the downpour had set in at the Paul Ricard HTTT. The track was wet and so all the drivers opted for their wet-weather tyres. Roberto Merhi continued his assault and set the fastest lap in these wet conditions. He finished ahead of Claudio Cantelli (Pons Racing), Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport) and Anton Nebilitsky (Red Devil Team Comtec).

Quote, unquote:

Roberto Merhi: "It was a very positive day. I built up my speed this morning, as the team asked of me. In the rain, it worked just as well. This year we have done a lot of Formula Renault 2.0 driving in the rain. It paid off today."

Jaime Alguersuari: "Today's the first time that I've driven this car. To clock a decent time, you have to drive smoothly and accurately as opposed to a GP2 where you have to be more aggressive. Competing in this championship with a top team would be very interesting. Tomorrow I'm driving for Tech 1 Racing, then I'm flying off to Macau."

Miguel Molina: "Yesterday I tried out the KTR car, today and tomorrow I'm driving the Epsilon Euskadi one. The aim is to really help these teams improve the handling of their cars and gauge where they stand in relation to the competition. It's interesting."

Nelson Panciatici: "The car is powerful. This is the first time I've driven it and also the first time I have driven on this track so I didn't take any risks. The aim of today was to feel comfortable in the car and become familiar with it."

Riki Christodoulou: "It's interesting moving from one car to another. Yesterday it was Red Devil Team Comtec, today it was Fortec Racing, a team I know well having taken part in the Formula Renault 2.0 UK with them. I realized that the set-up is different from one team to another. These two days have really convinced me. I hope that I can find the money to compete for the whole of the 2009 season."