After a month-long mid-season break, the Formula Renault 3.5 cars returned to action at Spa-Francorchamps. Fairuz Fauzy (Cram Competition) recorded the best time in the half-day of collective testing, to finish ahead of Clivio Piccione (RC Motorsport). Championship rivals Filipe Albuquerque (Epsilon Euskadi) and Alvaro Parente (Tech 1 Racing) were not far behind the top two.
With only four hours of track time, the drivers did not have long to get to grips with the new features of the famous Belgian circuit. Despite a brief shower in the afternoon, most of the laps were completed in dry conditions. At the end of the session, Fairuz Fauzy succeeded in setting the best time on his final run, having put on fresh tyres. In the wake of his podium finish in Hungary, the Malaysian was delighted with his performance: "It feels good to get back on the track after such a long break. The team has done a great job because the car was consistently powerful and efficient. The serious business gets underway tomorrow in qualifying, but I think I can do just as well then as I have today!"
Despite being almost half a second adrift of Fairuz, second-placed Clivio Piccione was also pleased: "We made solid progress throughout the afternoon. I am pleased with the handling of the car, but I think I can improve my driving to make up the final few tenths."
Third-placed driver Filipe Albuquerque had a tough day, despite finishing towards the top of the timing sheets: "We had a major setup problem at the start of the session. Things improved after that, but I was also impeded by gearbox problems. So, in view of all that, I'm pretty happy with the result. We will have ironed out these problems by tomorrow, and I think I will be able to improve my lap times."
Long-time leader on the timing screens, Alvaro Parente ended the day with the fourth best time: "It has been a positive day for us. We tried out a lot of things on the car and I think we have found a good setup for the race. I could have gone quicker at the end of the session but there was a lot of traffic."
Following Sebastian Vettel's move to F1, Parente and Albuquerque now find themselves in a fight for the title with Ben Hanley. The two Portuguese drivers are nevertheless quite happy to see the talented German move on to pastures new! "Sebastian is a great driver and he deserves our congratulations for having achieved the dream we all share. I would have loved to beat him again in a race, but ultimately, nothing will change my determination to do the best I can in every race", emphasized Parente. "There is still a long way to go in the championship and I get the feeling it is going to be very close. It will come down to who can avoid going through a bad patch", added Albuquerque.
The top five was completed by Davide Valsecchi (Epsilon Euskadi), just ahead of Mikhail Aleshin (Carlin Motorsport). The Russian has a new team-mate -- none other than former Eurocup FR2.0 driver, Michael Ammermuller -- who was driving a Formula Renault 3.5 for the first time: "It's not easy, as I haven't driven since my accident in Bahrain. I hope to improve tomorrow and finish in the top ten in qualifying."
Bertrand Baguette (KTR) is already in the top 10. The Verviers driver hopes to do even better tomorrow: "The car was very good, but we got the tyre pressure slightly wrong when I put on a fresh set of tyres. That cost me a top five spot, but it doesn't matter. I'm a little worried there could be rain, because I have never driven the car on a wet track."