Sweden's Alx Danielsson made an immediate impact on the 2005 World Series by Renault field by topping the times on day one of the latest group test just a couple of days after inking a deal with the DAMS team.
Despite having run in last year's Formula Renault V6 series, the former FFord frontrunner started the Paul Ricard session a little behind some of his rivals simply because DAMS had opted to run a Nissan World Series car for the first time. Despite the disadvantage, however, Danielsson showed his natural pace by leading the field by a tenth of a second at the end of the day, and even toppling the previous best WS time, set at the previous test by Robert Kubica..
“The team rented a Dallara-Nissan on purpose for this test, so we started the day from zero," the Swede confirmed, "We spent a lot of time working on the set-up, so I only really had 30 laps in the afternoon where I could really profit. It's the first time I have driven such a powerful car, but DAMS is the most professional team I have ever worked with, and I'm already delighted to have signed with them.”
The test again saw teams running a variety of Nissan World Series and FRV6 machinery, and it was the former that appeared to have the edge once again, as former WS teams Carlin, Saulnier and Epsilon Euskadi dominated the leading positions. Only the combined Draco Multiracing operation managed to break the stranglehold, pushing single-seater returnee Markus Winkelhock into fifth spot.
Will Power paced the morning session for Carlin Motorsport, eventually finishing second overall as Danielsson picked up his pace. The Australian has yet to confirm a deal for 2005, but is expected to rejoin Carlin in Barcelona. Alex Zuber, the team's only confirmed driver so far, will be on duty at Ricard today [Sunday].
Saulnier took its latest signing, Simon Pagenaud, to a promising third position, with the FRenault Eurocup runner-up impressing many on his first ever visit to Paul Ricard.
“I did not know the track, or the car, but I have enjoyed today a lot," Pagenaud commented, "There are a lot of good drivers here, so I'm more than happy to see myself in the top three positions.”
Aspiring F3 Euroseries graduates Eric Salignon and Kubica sandwiched Tielemans in fifth, running with Saulnier and Epsilon Euskadi respectively, while the latest signing to the series, French FRenault champion Patrick Pilet, claimed seventh for Jenzer Motorsport. The Frenchman out-paced his new team-mate, American Colin Fleming, on a circuit he knows well, lapping just over a second off Danielsson despite having just 38 laps in the afternoon session. Kubica, pace-setter last time the field tested at Ricard, was restricted to just twelve laps after lunch, and did well to claim sixth spot.
Damien Pasini, Felix Porteiro and Matteo Meneghello rounded out the top ten, bringing experience from FRV6, Nissan World Series and F3000 respectively.
The test continues today [Sunday], with a slightly revised cast expected to take centre stage, DAMS' Venezuelan hotshoe Pastor Maldonado among them.
Leading performances - day one (Paul Ricard):
Alx Danielsson DAMS 1min 17.090secs 69 laps
Will Power Carlin 1min 17.127secs 103 laps
Simon Pagenaud Saulnier 1min 17.680secs 98 laps*
Eric Salignon Saulnier 1min 17.943secs 56 laps
Markus Winkelhock Draco Multiracing 1min 18.099secs 66 laps*
Robert Kubica Epsilon Euskadi 1min 18.111secs 12 laps*
Patrick Pilet Jenzer 1min 18.249secs 38 laps*
Damien Pasini Cram 1min 18.373secs 89 laps
Félix Porteiro Epsilon Euskadi 1min 18.426secs 58 laps*
Matteo Meneghello Eurointernational 1min 18.510secs 97 laps*
Jaap van Laagen KTR 1min 18.517secs 72 laps
Colin Fleming Jenzer 1min 18.911secs 65 laps*
Giovanni Tedeschi RC 1min 19.159secs 98 laps*
Tomas Kostka GD 1min 19.343secs 111 laps
Stefano Proetto Interwetten 1min 19.376secs 39 laps*
Olivier Tielemans Draco Multiracing 1min 20.600secs 44 laps
Fred Vervisch Avelon 1min 21.622secs 92 laps
[* denotes drivers that only tested in the afternoon session]