Pastor Maldonado reigns in Valencia
The World Series Formula Renault 3.5 Teams finished their first days of testing for the 2006 season. More than 30 young drivers were in attendance for the first time. The next test will be at the HTTT Paul Ricard circuit, on December 6-7. Pastor Maldonado, Michael Ammermuller and Fernando Rees topped the timesheets after two days of exhausting work.
The second and final day of testing for the World Series Formula Renault 3.5 Teams started with a little rain, making track conditions very difficult and causing a lot of interruptions to the session. Renault Sport thus decided to add an extra 15 minutes to each session, allowing the teams to regain some of the lost time.
Like yesterday, Pastor Maldonado (Epsilon Euskadi) was one of the quickest drivers in the morning. This morning, he was neck and neck with Eric Salignon from RC Motorsport. As the track conditions improved, the drivers changed to slicks and the lap times started to drop, although the session was a non-stop red flag show! RC Motorsport continued to show their potential by finishing the test with the best time, taken by Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 runner-up, Michael Ammermuller. However, the drivers could not improve on Rees' lap time from day 1.
After the remarkable start of Giedo Van De Garde with Pons Racing, with the 4th quickest lap in wet conditions, Mihail Aleshin (Carlin Motorsport) and Jerome D'Ambrosio were also impressive in the rain. As the track started to dry, drivers took advantage to put on slicks, but most of them were not able to record a good time due to the numerous interruptions. D'Ambrosio was happy all the same after finishing the test: "This car has a lot of grip, but you have to get used to the carbon brakes. I think that I will be in Paul Ricard with KTR and then we will talk about the future."
The session was constantly interrupted by minor incidents. Chinese driver Lin Po Heng (Eurointernational) could only complete 4 laps before his car had to come into the garage where it would remain for the rest of the session. Alvaro Barba (Pons Racing) also had a crash and his car had to be repaired. Bastien Briere and Yann Clairay took unexpected detours to the gravel pit.
The track conditions improved 100% for the afternoon session. Mihail Aleshin was the first driver to step onto the track when the green lights went on after the lunch break. The name of the Russian driver was at the top of the screens for a long time but his lap was improved upon by Pastor Maldonado. The South American switched from the Epsilon Euskadi team that he tested with yesterday to Draco Multiracing USA and was proud to demonstrate that he could go just as fast today: "Yesterday, we had a small problem at Epsilon and my best time had to be cancelled, but today I demonstrated that we can be very fast. It has been a year to forget and I want to have another go in the Series, although nothing is confirmed as yet and I have still to decide if I will be in Paul Ricard for the second test."
Michael Ammermuller (RC Motorsport) clinched the second fastest lap of the day and was also second in the overall standings for the two test days, only 0.226 seconds behind Pastor. Tomas Kostka, in his Epsilon Euskadi car and Brazilian Carlos Iaconelli (Intervetten.com) managed to improve their lap times and finished with the 3rd and 4th fastest times. Again, Ben Hanley (Cram Competition) and Andy Soucek (Interwetten.com) finished the day in the top 10. Soucek was particularly happy with his results over the two days: "I did not expect to perform this well. I have fallen in love with the car. It's the first time in my live that I have driven a car with more than 250bhp. It is a big step up."
Susie Stoddart and Sean McIntosh were both out on the track for the whole day for Comtec after Dirani moved to KTR to finish the test in Valencia. Susie will become the first woman to race in the World Series Formula Renault 3.5 and she knows that there is a lot of work to do: "When I go back to England I'll concentrate on my fitness but I'm extremely happy to be in this Series. This is definitively a good place to be in order to progress". Canadian Sean McIntosh said he was surprised with how quickly he has adapted to the FR 3.5 car, after moving over from the competitive Formula Renault 2.0 championship in the UK.