Carlin's Jean-Eric Vergne was once again the quickest of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 testers, the Frenchman one of a handful of drivers to sneak beneath the unofficial lap record at Oulton Park on Wednesday.
The Cheshire circuit - venue for the championship's opening rounds at Easter (3-5 April) - provided a chilly but ever-quickening venue for the 21 drivers taking part, with Vergne setting the best time of the day which, at 1 minute 27.444 seconds, was 1.4s better than Max Chilton's 2008 pole position time. Vergne was also quickest last week in the Rockingham official tests.
"We did a pretty good job today,” said Vergne. “Our main aim today was to work on a qualifying simulation, as this is our last chance to test here before we go into qualifying at the first race of the season. We had really good pace and we were quick on new tyres so I'm pleased.
“It's important here not only to be fast but to get up to speed quickly. We saw today how many red flags there were and for sure there will be even more when we are pushing hard during qualifying. For that reason you need to be able to put in a fast lap straight away, which I feel confident we can do after today. Oulton Park is a fantastic circuit. I tested here late last year in the wet but it was a completely different experience in the dry today. It's so much fun to drive."
Raikkonen Robertson Racing's Carlos Huertas meanwhile was on top in the morning session, and the Colombian improved his pace after lunch to 1m 27.797s to run Vergne closest. Brazilian Adriano Buzaid was third fastest overall. Knutsford's Oli Webb wound up fifth fastest on his home circuit, just behind the quickest of the Brits, Carlin's James Calado.
In the keenly fought National class, Menasheh Idafar was again the pace-setter; the London-based driver lapped in 1m 28.776s, a second quicker than his T-Sport team-mate James Cole, and was an impressive 10th fastest overall on the day.
“I'm really pleased to have been in the top 10 overall today, our pace was good throughout the test which is obviously really good preparation for the first round of the season at Oulton,” Menasheh stated. “The cornering here is so much faster in an F3 car than in the Formula Renault I raced last year but I adapted to that without any problems. All in all it's been another great day.”
Silverstone is the next venue for official pre-season F3 testing, with a day-and-half scheduled at the Northamptonshire circuit for March 23-24.