The number of available seats in the World Series by Renault continues to diminish as deals are struck up and down the grid, with British F3 champion Alvaro Parente heading the latest batch of drivers confirmed for 2006.
The Portuguese ace, currently representing his countrymen in the A1 Grand Prix series, has made full use of his Carlin Motorsport links to land a ride at Italian outfit Victory Engineering, which will benefit from a technical relationship to the British squad this year.
Despite having tested with various GP2 teams over the winter, Parente joins the growing list of drivers having to settle for the World Series, joining the likes of Alx Danielsson, James Rossiter and Borja Garcia. He should shine, however, having clinched the British F3 title a round early even after missing the opening double-header while he sorted his Carlin deal.
No team-mate for the Portuguese driver has been revealed as yet, but he will be joined on the grid by another GP2 hopeful, after Steven Kane sealed a deal with reigning World Series champion Epsilon Euskadi. The Irishman had hoped to land a ride in the F1 feeder series, particularly as manager Damon Hill tried the GP2 Dallara last summer, but failed to agree a deal before the grid filled up. Kane, who also graduates from F3 this year, will partner impressive Italian Davide Valsecchi at the team that took BMW F1 tester Robert Kubica to a convincing title.
Another team to complete its line-up is Jenzer Motorsport, which has added Alessandro Bonetti to Alvaro Barba this week. The 21-year old has had something of a chequered career in recent seasons, bouncing directly from karting to the Italian F3 series in 2003, before stepping back to the national Formula Renault Monza 1600 class and then skipping a category or two to contest the F3000 Pro Series last year. He has brief World Series experience after testing with both Draco and Cram Competition over the winter.
Bonetti's deal at Jenzer comes at the expense of Pascal Kochem, who had been in talks with the Swiss team, but could now wind up at the Saulnier squad, which is one of only two squads yet to name a driver for 2006. Belgian Jerome d'Ambrosio is rumoured to be close to a deal with Serge Saulnier's team, which is rumoured to be handing over to the Tech 1 operation this year. Saulnier recently expanded his interests to cover sports prototypes.
Bonetti also became the latest Italian addition to the World Series, following close on the heels of Matteo Meneghello, who inked a deal to return with GD Racing. Meneghello debuted in 2005 with Eurointernational - the only other team without a confirmed pilot - but struggled to make an impact on the series after being sidelined by suspension in round one. Like Parente, Meneghello awaits the identity of his team-mate, although Frenchman Patrick Pilet is tipped to return to the squad after testing with GD throughout the winter.
The four latest deals mean that the only free seats are now with Eurointernational and Tech 1/Saulnier, which have two apiece, Victory, Interwetten and GD, with the first pre-season test due at Barcelona on 22-23 March.