FR3.5 » 3 April 2006
WS: Interwetten lead the way at Le Mans
After inconsistent conditions on Saturday, the weather improved for the 30 World Series by Renault drivers to really get down to work, completing the second pre-season test at Le Mans on Sunday.
Although the improved weather gave the 15 teams a chance to lap with their new tyres, the driver order was very much in keeping with that established in Barcelona last week, with series newcomer Andy Soucek continuing to impress for Interwetten.com.
The drivers got their first taste of the new version of the Bugatti circuit, with its recently revised pit-lane exit and Dunlop chicane as testing got underway on Saturday on a predominantly wet track. Conditions had already begun to improve by the afternoon, however, helping the best drivers to dip under the 1min 25secs mark.
Cram Competition's Milos Pavlovic was quickest on day one – notably without fitting new tyres – with a time of 1min 24.881secs, but was closely pursued by Eric Salignon who, having found a late berth at Interwetten, appeared determined to prove to the French equipe that ditching Carlos Iaconelli was the right decision for 2006.
Behind the top two, the occasional rookie interloper pushed their way into the top ten, with Italian Davide Valsecchi proving the quickest of the new crop and only narrowly missing out on second place. Veteran Patrick Pilet was not that far behind either, while newcomers Robbie Kerr, Michael Aleshin and James Rossiter filled places five to seven. Alx Danielsson was next up for new team Comtec, with second year men Christian Montanari and Colin Fleming rounding out the top ten.
Pastor Maldonado, who had paced the previous test in Spain, was only twelfth fastest for Draco, some eight-tenths off the pace, while Soucek was back in 23rd, almost two seconds shy of Pavlovic.
The track was wet again on Sunday morning, but dried a little before the mid-session break, leaving large wet patches until well into the afternoon. At home in the wet conditions, Pilet put the GD Racing entry at the top of the morning's times, but was still more than 1.5secs adrift of Pavlovic's overall best.
With no further rain falling, the track continued to dry, but the afternoon action did not really heat up until the last half hour, when testing began to resemble something of a qualifying session.
The two Interwetten drivers, Soucek and Salignon, showed that they will be a force to reckon with by snatching the top two places, both ducking under Pavlovic's Saturday target. Furthermore, with a lap of 1min 23.647secs, the Spaniard was the only driver to dip under the 1min 24secs mark, leaving his more experienced team-mate trailing by three-tenths.
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