If Daniel Ricciardo's record-breaking pace opened a few eyes on day one of the Oulton Park group test, Walter Grubmuller's move to the head of the field – with an even better time – will have prised them a little wider on day two.
The Austrian had been seventh fastest for Hitech on Tuesday, but took advantage of the dry second day conditions to move to the front – with the pack in hot pursuit. Grubmuller posted a 1min 27.753secs effort that proved nearly two tenths faster than Ricciardo's best effort for Carlin on the opening afternoon, but was just five-hundredths clear of the impressive Nick Tandy, who again filled second spot on the day in new JTR-prepared Mygale-Mercedes.
Despite enjoying his first outing of the year, Tandy was clearly the most consistent driver on track and, having spent the morning on old tyres to get the balance of his car back after Tuesday's off - which had necessitated fitting some '08 parts – he was quickly threatening both old and new track records during the afternoon, despite the cloud cover increasing. His last new tyre run came in just 0.054secs shy of Grubmuller's benchmark, but comfortably ahead of Ricciardo's day one target, and Riki Christodoulou, who again impressed in Fortec's Dallara-Mercedes.
“Consistency and speed together are what we need,” team boss Joe Tandy said, “and, so far, it's working out even better than we could have hoped.”
Christodoulou, pacesetter at Snetterton a fortnight ago, bounced back from a slow start on Tuesday to claim third-fastest time, with Australian Ricciardo fourth as the leading Volkswagen-powered runner after the Carlin quartet slipped back from their position of dominance. Team-mates Henry Arundel, Max Chilton and Oliver Oakes filled the next three spots, with Adriano Buzaid, Carlos Huertas and Daisuke Nakajima rounding out the top ten. Daniel McKenzie ended the test as the leading National Class runner, although he did not improve on his day one time.
Monégasque Stephane Richelmi was a non-starter on day two, having crashed his Barazi Epsilon Dallara heavily enough on Tuesday that it could not be repaired at the circuit. Tandy also endured an off-track moment, as did Spaniard Victor Garcia and Team West-Tec's new Russian signing, Max Snegirev.
“Despite the times, the test has been very positive as I am feeling better, both with the car and the team,” Garcia commented after his second outing with Fortec, “The past two days have been very positive for me as I have managed to learn one of the most difficult circuits in the championship. We have experienced some problems with decibel levels and this has prevented us from extracting the maximum from our package but, when we were using all the key parts, we were the fastest. I believe we are making progress in the right direction and after each test I feel better with the car and the team.”
F3 testing continues next week at Rockingham, before the championship kicks off back at Oulton Park on Easter Monday (13 April).
Leading performances – Oulton Park (10-11 March):
CF Racing Dallara-Mugen
* denotes National Class