Renault WS » 04 April 2006
WS: McIntosh, Kerr offer further encouragement.
KTR's new World Series by Renault line-up, pairing A1 Grand Prix stars Robbie Kerr and Sean McIntosh, continued its rapid acceleration up the pre-season learning curve with an encouraging second outing, this time at the remodelled Le Mans Bugatti circuit.
Regular top ten finishes at the first group test in Spain a few days ago were repeated in France, despite both drivers having to learn the circuit, but the test was marked by some disappointment for Canadian McIntosh, who suffered a blown engine on Saturday before responding with frontrunning pace on Sunday afternoon.
Faced with a mainly wet track on Saturday morning, drivers had to wait for conditions to improve towards the end of the session, with Kerr firing himself into the top five with a 1min 26.542secs lap, claiming fifth place on the timesheets among a field of 30. Dry running after lunch allowed former British F3 champion Kerr more time to work on his set-up and, despite traffic on his flying runs, he once again recorded the fifth quickest time of the session - and the day - with an improvement to 1min 25.059secs.
Saturday's session began with a bang for McIntosh, however, as his engine let go and left him languishing at the bottom of the timesheets. The KTR crew set to work immediately, replacing the Renault unit and getting the Canadian back on track for a fact-finding afternoon session.
Sunday's first session mirrored the previous morning's, with the track predominantly damp and greasy. Kerr opted not to run, figuring that there was little to learn in the intermediate conditions, and instead spent his time in the garage working on set-up changes. McIntosh racked up five token laps before breaking for lunch, both drivers hoping that the drying conditions would continue to improve.
Traffic once again made it difficult for Kerr to get a clear lap on new tyres, and his fastest afternoon lap of 1min 25.907secs failed to reflect what he and the team believed to be his true pace. McIntosh, however, seized the opportunity to put in some fast laps as the conditions reached their optimum in the closing stages, with a 1min 24.529secs best placing him seventh overall for the day.
â€œThis was a good test, with both our cars running competitively," team manager Kurt Mollekens reported, "Robbie was quick throughout the weekend, and managed to get quite a bit of mileage under his belt, while Sean missed quite a bit of running on the first day, but we got him back out and he continued to learn the circuit.
"Robbie was comfortably in the top five on Saturday, while Sunday's running was a little more restricted due to the number of cars on track. We know his final placing on the timesheets on Sunday isn't a true indication of his pace at Le Mans, which is encouraging for when we return to race. Considering the problems we had with Sean's engine failure on Saturday, everything turned out well in the end. Seventh quickest yesterday shows how competitive he is and, to date, I'm impressed by his performances. We'll be looking for more of the same as we head to Germany this week."
Kerr and McIntosh now head to Germany's Nurburgring for the third and final pre-season tests on Wednesday and Thursday [5-6 April].
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