Pic takes it at the last
Charles Pic (Tech 1 Racing) finished these Collective Tests with the fastest time , but the Frenchman could have done without crashing off on his final flying lap. Pic was followed by Miguel Molina (Epsilon Eusakdi) and Roberto Merhi (Epsilon Euskadi), who has been very convincing over these three days of testing at the Paul Ricard HTTT.
The wet tyres were out from the start on Friday. Newcomers Adam Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport), Formula Renault 2.0 UK champion, Renger Van der Zande (Prema Powerteam), fourth in Formula 3 Euro Series, and Harald Schlegelmilch (Red Devil Team Comtec), fourth in Formula Master, were among the first to get going.
Once the drivers swapped their wet tyres for slicks, the times improved lap on lap. James Walker (P1 Motorsport) took the lead, before Walter Grubmuller (P1 Motorsport) clocked a faster time. The track was still not at its quickest, however, and a further round of improvements would not be long in coming. In successive laps, first Renger Van der Zande, then Miguel Molina snatched the lead.
Things really got going as the end of the session approached. Jaime Alguersuari (Tech 1 Racing) moved out in front, then Marco Barba (International Draco Racing) went top with a time of 1'16''575. The dying minutes would prove crucial. James Walker took the lead, and his time of 1'16''100 also made him the first driver to beat Epsilon Euskadi driver Dani Clos's time from Wednesday afternoon, the fastest of the week so far. James Walker finished the morning on top of the pile, ahead of Miguel Molina, Marco Barba, Charles Pic and Greg Mansell (Ultimate-Signature).
The early part of the afternoon was somewhat spoiled by a passing shower. But the track gradually dried out and all the drivers had the time to try out a fresh set of tyres at the end of the day. In that time, Miguel Molina managed to clock the fastest time of the week so far in 1'16''071, just ahead of Roberto Merhi.
In the dying moments of the session, Charles Pic went after Molina's time and propelled himself into first position with a time of 1'15''998. But the Frenchman was too optimistic on his last flying lap and ended up hitting the wall and damaging the front right-hand part of his car.
The next set of Formula Renault 3.5 collective tests will be held in Valencia at the end of November.
James Walker: "We put on fresh tyres just before the break, which turned out to be a good idea as the rain then came. This was a good performance and follows on from my strong finish to the 2008 season. I'll definitely be competing in Formula Renault 3.5 Series next year. I just have to choose a team."
Greg Mansell: "These three days have been a great experience, even though I've been ill since I got here so I haven't been at 100%. It's a very professional championship and there's a really nice atmosphere. I'm comfortable driving the car. We're going to make a decision very soon, but it's certainly an interesting option for 2009."
Renger Van der Zande: "The FR 3.5 is much more powerful than an F3. As a result, you have to drive it completely differently. Nothing is decided for 2009 yet, but it'll probably come down to a choice between GP2, FR 3.5 and DTM."
Adam Christodoulou: "The car is really good on the slow bends, but it's on the fast bends that it's at its most impressive. You really feel it physically. I was getting to know the car and the circuit today, whereas the others have been here for a few days already. I got faster and faster as the day went on, which was my aim."