Testing Testing The 2003 Visma Software Formula Palmer Audi Championship pre-season build up continued this week in glorious conditions at the Bedford Autodrome, as 20 of the 22 drivers competing this year took part in the first official FPA...
The 2003 Visma Software Formula Palmer Audi Championship pre-season build up continued this week in glorious conditions at the Bedford Autodrome, as 20 of the 22 drivers competing this year took part in the first official FPA test on Tuesday. This year's crop of drivers were joined on the day by two of FPA's most distinguished graduates.
Justin Wilson, Britain's latest Formula One star and winner of the 1998 Formula Palmer Audi Championship popped along to lunch with the competitors and discuss his latest Grand Prix outings. Justin won the first ever FPA race at Oulton Park in May 1998 and subsequently went on to win the inaugural championship. Now competing in Formula One with the Minardi team, Justin took time out from his pressing schedule to lend his support to this year's grid.
2002 championship runner-up Joel Nelson also joined the proceedings. Joel was chosen from hundreds of young American drivers to be one of only four selected for the 2003 Red Bull US F1 Driver Search programme off the back of his impressive performances in FPA last year. With Red Bull behind him Joel will contest the Euro F3000 Championship this season.
Back on track Adam Smith led the young guns charge when testing commenced in the morning. The Northampton-based 'rookie' topped the time sheets with a best lap of 1m38.92s, Smith putting his previous single-seater experience to good use as he piloted his 275bhp Audi turbo charged car around Bedford's 2.8-mile South West circuit. Ryan Lewis, in the Building Environmental Services sponsored No.69 car, claimed second fastest behind Smith, continuing his improved run of form from the Autumn Trophy in October where he sealed his maiden FPA win. Stuart Prior claimed third fastest time, beating an impressive performance from BRSCC T-Car graduate Jonathan Kennard by two tenths of a second.
FPA Autumn Trophy Champion Ben Lewis was also present at the test, returning to the series following his winter success and eager to build on his sixth place championship finish in 2002. Back to back victories at Rockingham in rounds 3 and 4 of the Autumn Trophy helped clinch the title for Ben and together with brother Ryan, 'Team Lewis' will be looking to add to their trophy cabinet in 2003. Series returnees Howard Spooner and Stephen Young, both sporting the VK Vodka Kick liveries, posted the fifth and eighth fastest times respectively.
Other notable performances on Tuesday came from 2002 Porsche 924 Champion Ryan Hooker, another newcomer to FPA, with the sixth fastest time and Terry White, who made his debut in last year's Autumn Trophy, capping the top ten in the No.53 car. American Emmanuel Crouvisier stepped into an FPA car for the very first time on Tuesday and posted the 14th quickest time, having contested the 2002 Elf Formula Campus series in France.
The 6 round, 12 race series kicks off in three weeks time (10-11 May) at Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix before going on to visit two more famous F1 venues, Monza in Italy and Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium later in the season.