The first collective test sessions of Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 gave us the shape of an initial pecking order for the season. If Robin Frijns (Josef Kauffman Racing) dominated the first day, in the end it was Carlos Sainz Junior (Koiranen Motorsport) who rammed home his case by closing each of the second day's sessions ahead. The Spaniard is looking ready for this coming season, which is already showing signs of being a very competitive edition.
For the first time this season, competitors in the 2011 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 found themselves on track for official collective testing. Thirty-seven drivers enrolled for the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 turned up, joined by six competitors in the Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS.
Under a menacing Monday morning sky, the first driver ranking of the year slowly began to take shape. Drivers from Red Bull Junior Team, Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniil Kvyat (Koiranen Motorsport), set the tempo and were soon joined at the top of the leaderboard by Alex Riberas (Epsilon Euskadi). But while Riberas came a cropper and damaged his car, Robin Frijns was getting into action. After taking a few laps to settle, the Dutchman put in the best performance of the morning, lapping in 2'06''180.
The pace quickened as the afternoon session got underway, with Robin Frijns pulling out a 2'06''503 lap from the outset. Carlos Sainz Jr and Vittorio Ghirelli (One Racing) rounded out the top three as the rain set in at the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit. The rest of the day was to unfold in wet track conditions and standings would stay put. Robin Frijns finished the first day of testing in the lead, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr, Daniil Kvyat, Alex Riberas and Yann Zimmer (Arta Engineering).
On Tuesday, the weather was more welcoming. The drivers went out for a few laps with on wet tyres before swapping for slicks. Stoffel Vandoorne (KTR) was on old tyres and set a reference time of the session in 2'07''425.
The pace quickened as the session drew to a close. Most drivers switched to new tyres. Robin Frijns and Javier Tarancon (Tech 1 Racing) were the first to lap in 2'05, significantly improving on the reference time set the day before. Meanwhile Carlos Sainz Jr was to land the killer blow. With a lap in 2'04''661, he grabbed the top spot. The Spaniard now led from Robin Frijns, Daniil Kvyat Javier Tarancon and Wil Stevens (Fortec Motorsport).
Drivers practiced long runs in the early part of the afternoon. On new rubber, moving into the last hour of the session, Carlos Sainz Jr launched the final wave of improvements, delivering a lap time of 2'04''765. Stoffel Vandoorne grabbed the second time and Yann Zimmer the third, but nobody was able to better the time produced this morning by Carlos Sainz Jr, who turned in the best performance of these first collective test sessions of the year.
The drivers will meet up again as of Sunday next at Motorland Aragon, in Spain, for two more days of collective testing.
Carlos Sainz Junior: "In each session, we were in the leader group, which is good for confidence! It shows that we have worked well this winter. We tried many things over the two days, in a variety of track conditions. Things are working very well with Koiranen Motorsport, I have high hopes for this season, even though I have much to learn."
Robin Frijns: "This is a new adventure for me and for my team because everything is new for us this season: the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and the car. Yesterday was our first outing with this car that we just received and we were on the pace straight away. Today we explored various settings, to understand the reactions of this car. We still have a lot of work to do before the first race."
Stoffel Vandoorne: "During the first day, we ran in a lot of parts. After that I really enjoyed driving in the rain. We carried on our development work this morning and I pushed a little more at the end of the last session on the new tyres. The level of performance is there, and that is encouraging, even if you can't attach an awful lot of importance to this result".