Jake Hughes and Matevos Isaakyan spoke of their Formula 3.5 V8 début at the series' post-season test in Jerez, just days after splitting from Renault Sport.
The first few days of post-season testing began in earnest at the Spanish circuit one week after Jerez hosted the final round of the 2015 World Series by Renault calendar. Only seven of the 17 drivers over the two day test had competed in the FR3.5 season before meaning it was a week of rookies for the new-look championship.
The afternoon session was led by Isaakyan in the Pons Racing challenger with the Russian the fastest rookie and third overall at the close of Wednesday running. The day was led by 2015 runner up Matthieu Vaxiviere who, after two full seasons, was the most experienced man on track this week.
“We had quite good speed from the beginning," he said. "We used only one set of tyres when everyone used two in the morning and I still managed to get P3, which is quite good, and I'm really happy with that result."
The Russian set his fastest time, a 1m 27.651s in the morning, at the helm of the Pons Racing model. The Spanish outfit endured many driver changes throughout the season after Roberto Merhi pulled out to concentrate on his F1 campaign, Meindert van Buuren returned for a one-off after a dispute with Lotus and BTCC regular Will Bratt sat in the 3.5 cockpit for his home race at Silverstone.
The Russian is part of the SMP Racing programme, the same scheme behind two-time FR3.5 race winner Egor Orudzhev. The Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup partnered Yu Kanamaru at the Spanish outfit following the Japanese driver's consistent run of points finishes in the latter of the season. He finished his second FR2.0 Eurocup season in tenth place for JD Motorsport.
"Then we decided to completely change the car to take the setups from Yu Kanamaru. I was struggling quite a lot with the balance at first, but it was quite productive and I show my speed.”
Isaakyan was just one tenth of a second faster than fellow rookie Jake Hughes in what was a competitive session for the newcomers. Hughes had been testing with Strakka Racing over the two day running, partnering both 2015 FR3.5 regular Gustav Malja and 17-year-old George Russell.
Hughes, who showed great speed in FR2.0 ALPS and Eurocup this year, agreed with the sentiments of Isaakyan, noting the great show that RPM put on this week despite great changes behind the scenes. Their 11 year partnership with Renault Sport ended last week prompting FR3.5 - now known as FR3.5 V8 - to separate from the World Series by Renault package.
"I've been measuring pretty well against the previous year's drivers, I'm just a bit disappointed about the red flag this morning when I was on new tyres as it maybe cost me a chance to be fastest but overall I'm happy and surprised how well I've done with the car.”
Hughes is expected to feature heavily in the next F3.5 V8 tests at the beginning of November, this time coming from Motorland, the same venue that will host the first round of the revamped championship next year.
“Both of these testing days have been absolutely mega" he said at the close of the second day. "The car is unbelievable, especially compared to the Formula Renault 2.0, my lap times have been very competitive."