Renault WS » 24 March 2006
WS: Fleming sets day two pace before early exit.
America's Colin Fleming is determined not to let former team-mate Scott Speed hog the headlines for his Formula One exploits this season, and emphasised that by setting the pace during the second day of World Series by Renault testing in Barcelona.
The Carlin Motorsport driver moved to the head of the timesheets midway through the morning session at the Circuit de Catalunya and, satisfied with its performance during a day-and-a-half of running, prompted the team to pack up and head for home before the afternoon was out. The American's 1min 29.193secs was the best time of the test - more than half a second quicker than Wednesday pacesetter Pastor Maldonado managed - and was ably backed up by Carlin team-mate Mihael Aleshin, who finished sixth in the morning session and ninth after lunch despite his relative inexperience after stepping up from FRenault.
"We'd rather save our tyres for the next round of testing at Le Mans," a team spokesman explained of the early exit, "We've put in some excellent work here and I reckon we are going to be among those fighting it out for victory this season."
The morning session was marked by the first run for all teams on new rubber, after some had decided to save tyres for day two while they got used to their revised machines. Fleming duly set the pace with his new lap record for the Barcelona facility, but was hotly pursued by Maldonado, who is equally marking himself out as a pre-season favourite after a fraught 2005. The Venezuelan's performance was all the more remarkable, however, as he had badly damaged his car in a Wednesday off.
No fewer than eight drivers were closely matched in the 1min 26s during the session, the remaining six led by the impressive Davide Valsecchi. Having already impressed in the winter tests, Valsecchi has wound up with a seat at reigning champions Epsilon Euskadi and appears determined not to let the opportunity slip through his fingers after posting the third fastest time, just 82-thousandths off Fleming's pace.
GP2 refugee Borja Garcia was next up for RC Motorsport, fending off the challenges of Ben Hanley (Cram), Aleshin, Andy Soucek (Interwetten) and Alx Danielsson (Comtec) despite not yet being familiar enough with the World Series car to feel he could push to his limit. - Alvaro Parente and Christian Montanari rounded out the top ten.
Honda F1 test driver James Rossiter arrived overnight from Vallelunga and posted the 22nd best time of the 30 runners, but the Briton was not alone in being a fancied runner among the lower reaches, as Bruce Jouanny was 17th, Milos Pavlovic 18th and Eric Salignon, a late addition to the Interwetten squad, a disappointing 28th after an incident involving Epsilon's Steven Kane.
"I feel a bit rusty, but my times are coming down with every run," Jouanny, who raced sportscars in 2005, admitted, "I'm just happy to be back in the fold."
Jerome d'Ambrosio, another driver to make the move up from 200bhp to 425bhp over the close season, confessed to having some difficulties getting to grips with the car, but Tech 1 team-mate Ryo Fukuda left rookie team boss Simon Abadie happy after remaining at the top of the timing screens the opening part of the day.
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