The 2010 World Series by Renault finally kicked into life as teams and drivers gathered at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya for the first group test of the season.
The line-up of 24 drivers augured well for a season of open racing, with the top 15 all within the same second as KMP Racing newcomer Victor Garcia produced the quickest performance of the morning, before being trumped by Nelson Panciatici and Lotus Junior Racing in the closing half hour.
Most drivers waited for the last hour to make a final assault on the stopwatch, each running on new tyres, but several red flag incidents were to interrupt the best laid plans, in particular a coming together between Albert Costa (Epsilon Euskadi) and Draco's Nathanael Berthon. In the end, however, it was French GP2 refugee Panciatici who got the upper hand, raising the tempo and improving the overall best lap several times to end the day at 1min 33.975secs.
“This is my first real day's work with the Junior Lotus Racing team, so I'm very pleased to start off our collaboration with the quickest lap of the day," he noted, "It's very motivating for things to come as we weren't looking for performance. We were working on getting me installed in the car, so the signs are very good.”
Drivers took to the track in wet conditions in the early morning, but the sun quickly helped dry the racing line and, as soon as the drivers switched to slicks, the lap times started to come down.
Top spot kept changing hands and, in the last hour of the morning session, Mikhail Aleshin (Carlin), Berthon, Federico Leo (Pons Racing), Stefano Coletti (Comtec Racing), Keisuke Kunimoto (Epsilon Euskadi), Brendon Hartley (Tech 1 Racing) and Jean-Eric Vergne (SG Formula) all took their turns on top. As the chequered flag came down, however, it was Spanish driver Garcia who pipped everyone to the post with a final flying lap of 1min 34.455secs, offering KMP Racing an early taste of the top of the timesheets in its very first test. Berthon and Daniel Zampieri made up the top three in the session
“I signed up with KMP Racing last week for the whole season, and it's been a very good first day," Garcia commented, "The team is very young and everyone is very motivated and raring to go. At the end, I was checking the car out in its light aerodynamic configuration. It's pretty surprising at first, but still very effective. I'll have to learn to manage that.”
After a fairly quiet first hour in the afternoon, drivers opted to fit new rubber relatively early. First off, Kunimoto shot to top, but was quickly ousted by Vergne, before Daniel Ricciardo (Tech 1 Racing) moved clear, the first driver to beat the time set by Garcia during the morning. The Spaniard, however, was quick to hit back, reclaiming his place with a 1min 34.236secs lap, before the alter flurry again shuffled the order.
The test welcomed several new recruits, with Vergne, Garcia and Zampieri being joined by other latecomers, including veteran Marcos Martinez (SG Formula), Jake Rosenzweig (Carlin), Sergio Canamasas (Fortec Motorsport) and Bruno Mendez (ISR).