Borja Garcia shines at home
Valencia-born Borja Garcia (RC Motorsport) made a successful return to Formula Renault 3.5, as he set the fastest time in the first collective test sessions of the season. A decisive two days of testing and a new race car with which drivers and teams alike seem fully satisfied, although a few details still need to be ironed out before the next tests, scheduled to take place in Barcelona at the start of April.
After the first day of testing was seriously disrupted by the weather, the teams could really get down to business today. Without wasting any time, Marco Bonanomi (Comtec Racing) immediately better the best time set yesterday by Bertrand Baguette (International Draco Motorsport). Everybody upped the pace and consequently the standings changed almost on every lap. Borja Garcia (RC Motorsport) helped himself to the best time, before Miguel Molina (Prema Powerteam) and then Bertrand Baguette bettered it. No preliminaries then: the protagonists for the 2008 season were up to racing speed no sooner had they stepped into the new Formula Renault 3.5.
Salvador Duran (Interwetten.com) then took his turn to grab top spot with a lap timed at 1''23'071, before improving his time to 1''23'035. Eight drivers were at that stage separated by less than a second, Salvador Duran leading from Borja Garcia, Miguel Molina, Guillaume Moreau (KTR), Bertrand Baguette, Charles Pic (Tech1 Racing), Marco Bonanomi and Robert Wickens (Carlin Motorsport).
As the day neared the half-way stage, Guillaume Moreau and Bertrand Baguette moved back up to first and second positions, both dipping below the 1''23 mark. Marco Bonanomi was not to be intimidated, however. The Italian, track record holder in the previous version of the car, moved back to the top of the standings with a lap of 1''22'374.
As the car is new, the teams only had one single-seater for the Valencia test. The majority of the drivers handed over to team-mates in the afternoon. So we had to wait a little for times to start improving again. Mikhail Aleshin (Carlin Motorsport) managed to muscle his way into third, between Moreau and Garcia.
With close to half an hour to go, Borja Garcia returned to the track and took control of affairs again with a lap of 1''22'031, while Marco Barba (International Draco Racing) moved up to fourth position. Pasquale di Sabatino (Red Devil Team Comtec) produced a fine performance right at the death to take the third best time. Garcia therefore left Valencia with the best time, ahead of Bonanomi, Sabatino, Barba and Moreau.
Borja Garcia seemed satisfied with his return to the category, although he is yet to decide what he will do this year. "It was a very good day, but fairly tiring because I spent a lot of time on the track. I waited until the end of the session to try and set the best time. These test sessions with the new car were very decisive. Now all I have to do is sign for RC Motorsport."
These tests were not however all about performance -- above all, they were about getting used to the new Formula Renault 3.5, as Guillaume Moreau explained: "The aim was to gather as much information as possible for the team, to identify what needs to be worked on with this new car. We found a solid base and a good setup. Having said that, we broke the clutch in the afternoon, which disrupted our plans somewhat."
Renault Sport Technologies' engineers were also pleased with this first test session. "Apart from a gearbox problem for Prema Powerteam and a broken clutch on the KTR car, we didn't have any major problems, which can always happen with a new race car. We are going to improve the driving position and a few technical details, but overall we are pleased with these test sessions", explained Track Operations Manager Emmanuel Esnault.