Will Power took Carlin Motorsport to the top of the times on day one of the latest World Series by Renault group test, and underlined his potential to be among the frontrunners when the championship kicks off for real.
The Australian was a fixture among the fastest times at last weekend's Paul Ricard outing, and took Carlin clear of the field on day one at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya. Power put in an impressive lap, setting the benchmark time at 1min 28.774secs during the afternoon session, lapping 0.479secs faster than the best time registered in the morning by Ricard pacesetter Robert Kubica. On top of that, Power also beat the existing qualifying record for a Nissan World Series car in Barcelona by a full second.
“The track conditions were perfect during the beginning of the afternoon, and I was also very lucky to get a clear lap," the F3 graduate admitted, "It's only my first time in Barcelona, but I love the track. It's very good and technical, and I especially like the last two corners.”
As at recent tests, the field used a combination of FNissan and Formula Renault v6 machinery as it waits for the definitive World Series by Renault car, but each of the teams present worked diligently to try and whittle down another of the variables affecting this year's championship - driver choice.
For some drivers, this outing will be the last chance to secure a drive, but not all were able to profit from the use of new tyres. Kubica, running once again with the Epsilon Euskadi squad, had a problem with his gearbox and could not improve his times during the afternoon, although he was the quickest driver after the morning session. The Pole is not expected to get a second day in the saddle, as potential team-mate Felix Porteiro will testing throughout the final day, but may already have done enough to secure the second seat.
Third overall, and springing a surprise on his return to the fray after a long winter, was Spaniard Adrian Vallés, who used his prior knowledge of both car and track to record a best time fractionally slower than Kubica's. However, the promising youngster was far from being happy, complaining in particular about red flags which spoiled his last run.
"I had used a set of tyres early in the afternoon, but this was going to be my best run for sure," the driver, who was back with 2004 outfit Pons Racing, fumed.
Reigning Nissan World Series outfit Pons will run last year's World Series Lights runner-up, Celso Miguez, on day two of the test.
Saulnier Racing continued its strong performance from Paul Ricard, with confirmed driver Simon Pagenaud claiming fourth spot on the timesheets as former charge Ryo Fukuda returned to the cockpit. Although the Japanese ace was well down the order on his return to action, Pagenaud was close enough to Kubica and Valles to take heart. Eric Salignon, who ran with Saulnier in Ricard but began the Barcelona test with Cram Competition, will return to the French team tomorrow [Thursday].
FRV6 frontrunner Christian Montanari needed only six laps to set the fifth best time of the day, and almost certainly cemented the San Marino driver as a candidate for any of the competitive drives that remain unfilled for 2005.
Jaap van Lagen finished his test by setting the sixth fastest lap with KTR, for whom team boss Kurt Mollekens will test the F3 Euroseries driver Charles Zwolsman tomorrow. Damien Pasini (Cram Competition), Markus Winkelhock (Draco Multiracing USA), Colin Fleming (Jenzer Motorsport) and F3000 refugee Raffaele Giammaria (GD Racing) rounded out the top ten. Ricard frontrunner Alx Danielsson did not fare as well this time around, however, posting only the 17th fastest time, and languishing behind DAMS team-mate Pastor Maldonado, who was getting his first real run since crashing heavily in France.
Leading performances (23 February) - Circuit de Catalunya:
Will Power Carlin 1min 28.774secs
Robert Kubica Epsilon Euskadi 1min 29.253secs
Adrian Valles Pons 1min 29.254secs
Simon Pagenaud Saulnier 1min 29.625secs
Christian Montanari Draco Multiracing 1min 29.757secs
Jaap van Lagen KTR 1min 30.056secs
Damien Pasini Cram 1min 30.151secs
Markus Winkelhock Draco Multiracing 1min 30.340secs
Colin Fleming Jenzer 1min 30.894secs
Raffaele Giammaria GD 1min 30.996secs
Eric Salignon Cram 1min 31.236secs
Stefano Proetto Interwetten 1min 31.535secs
Patrick Pilet Jenzer 1min 31.656secs
Partiva Sureshwaren RC 1min 31.926secs
Pastor Maldonado DAMS 1min 31.965secs
Matteo Meneghello Eurointernational 1min 32.500secs
Alx Danielsson DAMS 1min 32.937secs
Ryo Fukuda Saulnier 1min 33.692secs
Ivan Bellarosa Avelon 1min 33.734secs