Action right from the restart! After a winter break of more than three months, the thirty Formula Renault 3.5 cars entered for the World Series 2006 have taken to the track once again in Barcelona. The clement spring weather meant the teams were...
Action right from the restart!
After a winter break of more than three months, the thirty Formula Renault 3.5 cars entered for the World Series 2006 have taken to the track once again in Barcelona. The clement spring weather meant the teams were make the most of these first two days of testing.
It was the first time that the Formula Renault 3.5s have come to the Catalan circuit, which will play host to the final round of the World Series 2006 season on October 28 and 29 of this year.
On Wednesday morning it was the Cram Competition drivers Milos Pavlovic and Ben Hanley who got things going, each taking it in turns to set the best time. That is until Pastor Maldonado (Draco) took to the track: the Venezuelan driver soon set what was to prove to be the fastest time of the day with a lap in 1'26''673. A lap time which compares favourably with the 1'28''774 lap put in by Will Power the last time the Dallara-Nissan was here in February 2005. Further back, Colin Fleming (Carlin Motorsport) found himself 7/10ths off the pace despite clearly being the most determined driver out on track.
In the afternoon, no-one was able to do better than Maldonado. Fleming put in the best time of the session ahead of Andy Soucek (Interwetten.com), Patrick Pilet (GD Racing) and Davide Valsecchi (Epsilon-Euskadi).
On Thursday morning, the Cram drivers proved that the previous morning had been no fluke. Michael Aleshin (Carlin Comp0x00e9tition), who has made the step up from Formula Renault 2.0 to Formula Renault 3.5, was also one of the fastest out there: "There's a massive difference between the two cars, but I don't find that to be a problem. Physically, I feel fine with the car and the times are there to prove it."
Jerme d'Ambrosio, another driver to make the move up from 200 to 425bhp, however confesses to having some difficulties physically getting to grips with the car. His Tech 1 Racing teammate Ryo Fukuda was clearly having no such difficulties, remaining at the top of the timing screens for quite some time. A source of satisfaction for Simon Abadie, the youngest team manager in the category: "The team is still finding its footing, but we are making progress." Prema Power Team and Comtec Racing, the two other newcomers to the discipline, also looked happy to be mixing it with the big names despite the former suffering from some engine problems.
Midway through the morning, Colin Fleming set the best time of the day in 1'26''193. Satisfied with its work thus far, the Carlin Motorsport team decided to call it a day early in the mid-afternoon: "We'd rather save our tyres for the next round of testing in Le Mans. We've put in some excellent work here and I reckon we are going to be among those fighting it out for victory this season!"
In the closing session, the Spanish F3 Champion Andy Soucek recorded the fastest time of the afternoon in 1'26''775 ahead of Davide Valsecchi and Borja Garcia (RC Motorsport). A clear sign, for those of us who had any doubts, that the newcomers mean business!
Despite what can be learnt from the times set here, these first two days of collective testing have enabled the rookies to get to know the old hands of the discipline, even if most of them know each other from karting anyway. Steven Kane, who has inherited Robert Kubica's number 1 spot at Epsilon-Euskadi, is clearly happy with his new environment: "I don't feel under any pressure because of the number. I can't see it when I'm behind the wheel! It's the first time I've been on track for six months but I already like the feel of the car."
A view shared by Bruce Jouanny, who makes a return to single-seater competition with RC Motorsport after a season in sports prototype racing: "I feel a bit rusty but my times are coming down with every run. I'm happy to be back in the fold".
Certain others were however not so successful. In particular, this was the case for Eric Salignon (Interwetten.com) and Celso Miguez (Pons Racing), who both encountered technical difficulties.