Reigning World Series by Renault champions Tech 1 Racing appears to have decided on its main target for next season, as it attempts to repeat the title-winning form shown by Alvaro Parente in 2007.
The Portuguese driver's success this season has made Simon Abadie's team a popular target during the recent group tests at Paul Ricard and Valencia, and helped to maintain Tech 1's frontrunning form. Three days in Spain saw the distinctive pink-and-white machines confirmed as the series yardstick with FRenault graduate Charles Pic setting a new lap record as he made full use of the #32 Dallara, which he had for the entire test, while the #31 was shared between Englishman Oliver Oakes, who joined the team for the first two days, and 2007 pilot Julien Jousse, who took over for the final sessions.
Although the team was not out to chase times on a track that was regularly quicker in the morning than the afternoon, Pic topped the overall timesheets with a lap of 1min 21.391secs, shattering the previous record set by Miguel Molina in 2006.
“Charles took full advantage of the three days to make a big step forward," Abadie commented, "He made no mistakes - no locked wheels, no spins - and his capacity to absorb and immediately apply our instructions is mind-boggling! Changing from the two-litre Formula Renault to the 3.5-litre car isn't that easy, but Charles took it in his stride. He's ready to move up to this level.”
After testing with a different team at Paul Ricard, Oakes continued his apprenticeship with Tech 1 at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, the 2005 karting world champion covering almost 200 laps in two days and making steady progress.
“Oliver's had a difficult season and, even though he finished all the Eurocup FRenault races, he didn't make it onto the rostrum," Abadie commented, "He was a bit disappointed with his times [in Valencia], but we felt that he was gaining confidence over the runs. Every time he went out, he improved, and we appreciated his collaboration very much.
Jousse took over from the Briton for the final day and, by the late afternoon, was among the quickest drivers on track. The Frenchman is fully involved in preparing for the 2008 season and confirmed his role as a potential title challenger.
“It was very important for Julien to rack up track time and not to remain inactive," Abadie said of the test, "He's doing a very big physical fitness programme at the moment, but there's nothing better than 100 laps behind a steering wheel! He did a good job and the data showed us that once again he was among the quickest in the field.
“We'll announce the names [of our 2008 line-up] once the final details have been sorted out, but it's not that difficult to see the direction in which we're heading!”