Will Power remained unbeaten at the head of the World Series test times in Barcelona, his new, albeit unofficial, lap record for Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya providing the venerable Dallara-Nissans with an honourable path into retirement.
With an all-new Renault-powered WS car due online shortly, the Catalan test marked the end of an era for both the car and the 'old' series, which merges with the Formula Renault V6 championship for 2005. Four years on from its debut, the Dallara bowed out on a high, with series aspirant Power setting his record mark on the opening day of two in Spain.
In all, 23 drivers attended the test session in Barcelona, but few had anything to offer in terms of opposition to the Carlin-run Australian, who 'powered' his way to the fastest four-wheel lap yet recorded outside of Formula One at the grand prix venue. His 1min 28.774secs effort, clocked at an average speed of 187.6kph, remained unbeaten despite the best efforts of a changed cast on Thursday, although Felix Porteiro and impressive rookie Simon Pagenaud both provided stern examination.
The second day of testing started with light rain falling over the circuit, but the drivers were still able to improve their lap times as the sun came out and shone strongly in the early hours of the afternoon. Porteiro proved to be the fastest driver on the day, using his experience of both circuit and car to clock 1min 28.901secs, while Frenchman Pagenaud continued his sterling start to the pre-season by pushing his Saulnier Racing entry into the top three overall, just 0.063secs shy of Porteiro. The Spaniard, however, had not had it easy, and was quick to thank the help he had received from both the Epsilon Euskadi team and interim team-mate Robert Kubica.
“The car is simply perfect," Porteiro reported later, "My ideal lap is 1min 28.500secs, which means that we can be very competitive at this track.
"The team did some great work too, finishing the car at 4am after our problem with the gearbox yesterday. Robert is a great driver and a great help too. He is very funny, and we get along very well, as we know each other from karting.”
Saulnier team boss Serge Saulnier was equally quick to praise his latest protégé, reckoning that Pagenaud will surprise people in the coming campaign.
“We are very impressed by Simon, as it was the first time that he had driven at this circuit," the Frenchman explained, "We have been working hard on the car and, with every run, you could see how Simon was feeling more confident. The same happened at Paul Ricard.”
Saulnier added that he expected to be able to reveal the identity of his second driver next week, and the sensible money currently rests on former F3 Euroseries frontrunner Eric Salignon, who ran with Cram Competition in Spain after trying out with Saulnier at the weekend. The Frenchman also demonstrated his WS potential by setting the fourth best lap over the two days.