Robert Kubica again showed that he will among the men to beat in this year's World Series by Renault - provided that the Pole is actually offered a deal to contest the series.
After just twelve laps on Saturday - which nevertheless saw him clinch a top six time - Kubica returned to the top of the times on day two of the group outing at Paul Ricard, repeating the feat he first achieved in a similar test late last year. Reunited with Nissan World Series regulars Epsilon Euskadi, Kubica clocked a best lap of 1min 16.795secs to knock Saturday pacesetter Alx Danielsson from the top of the list and establishing a new NWS record for the French venue by three-tenths.
”The test has been very interesting for me and, after 20 laps yesterday, I spent the day testing different solutions on the car," Kubica revealed, "The World Series is going to be a very tough championship because the best teams from the Nissan World Series and the FRV6 are in it, and the level will be very high.”
Enjoying improved track conditions, the more experienced drivers were quickly posting faster lap times, although Ricard rookie Simon Pagenaud proved to be very fast in the morning session, with Kubica and single-seater returnee Markus Winkelhock both within a few tenths. Pagenaud and Saulnier 'team-mate' Eric Salignon finished second and third on the day, but neither was able to beat Danielsson's 1min 17.090secs Saturday best.
Erstwhile DTM competitor Winkelhock took an eventual fourth for Draco Multiracing USA, just ahead of Andreas Zuber and reigning FRV6 champion Giorgio Mondini, running for Carlin and Eurointernational respectively. The German's biggest battle was trying to re-adapt to an open-wheel car after year behind the wheel of a Mercedes tourer. He set his best lap - a 1min 17.371secs effort – on new tyres in the morning session, before using the afternoon to work on set-up development.
“This is really different from the DTM, especially as I'm having to learn the car and
the circuit," Winkelhock admitted, "The team is fantastic, though, and they are helping me a lot - which is good, because I don't know Barcelona either. I think it will be a very interesting season for me.”
The morning session was interrupted when new DAMS recruit Pastor Maldonado suffered a heavy off at the second corner while running on new tyres. The Venezuelan rookie was unhurt, however, and, after the team put all hands to the pump in repairing the car, was able to complete a further five laps in the afternoon.
“Apparently, Pastor is not responsible for this morning's crash, but it is a shame because we have lost one day of testing," team boss Jean-Paul Driot commented, "I will keep in mind, however, that the team adapted very quickly to the [Formula Nissan] car, that Alx was impressive yesterday, and I am sure Maldonado will have the opportunity to show his great potential at Barcelona this week.”
Maldonado ended the day eleventh overall, one place behind compatriot Ernesto Viso, who used the test to prepare for his first outing in a GP2 car at the same track next month. The confirmed BCN driver was joined on the 'entry' list by Richard Antinucci, who turned out for RC Motorsport, although it remains unclear whether the Italo-American was trying out for a place in the World Series or also getting track time ahead of the GP2 session. Antinucci has been linked to the vacancy still open at Coloni for the inaugural GP2 series.
Italians Alex Ciompi and Raffaele Gianmaria, testing for Avelon and GD Racing respectively, were the only drivers that did not used new tyres as both cars suffered engine problems.
The World Series group test programme now switches to the Circuit of Catalunya in Barcelona, where teams will continue to assess potential drivers in last year's FNissan and FRV6 cars over 23-24 February.
Leading performances - day two (Paul Ricard):
Epsilon Euskadi 1min 16.795secs
Saulnier 1min 17.125secs
Saulnier 1min 17.283secs
Draco Multiracing 1min 17.371secs
Carlin 1min 17.788secs
Eurointernational 1min 17.865secs
Jenzer 1min 18.222secs
Interwetten 1min 18.257secs
RC 1min 18.472secs
Cram 1min 18.669secs
DAMS 1min 18.696secs
GD 1min 19.012secs
Avelon 1min 19.461secs
Jenzer 1min 19.820secs