Valencia-born Borja García made a successful return to the World Series by Renault ranks, setting the fastest time of the first group test session with the new Dallara chassis at his home circuit.
The Spaniard appears poised to switch back from GP2 for the second time, and hopes to dovetail his World Series commitments with RC Motorsport with a possible F1 test drive at Williams. Not having driven a WSbR machine since 2006 appeared to make little difference to Garcia, who took the new Dallara around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo quickest of all on day two of the test.
After the opening day had been disrupted by the weather, and damage caused to the circuit's infrastructure by high winds, the teams could finally get down to business on Thursday. Straight away, lap times began to come down, with Comtec's Marco Bonanomi the first to duck under Bertrand Baguette's benchmark from day one.
As the field explored the limits of the new Dallara, however, the standings changed with almost every lap, with García moving to the top of the pile, only be displaced by Prema's Miguel Molina, before Baguette bettered everyone. Interwetten's Salvador Duran then took his turn to grab top spot, and improved on his own time before Guillaume Moreau moved to the head of the pile.
Prior to the Frenchman's move, the top eight drivers were separated by less than a second, with García, Molina, Moreau, Baguette, Charles Pic, Bonanomi and Robert Wickens giving chase to Duran, and it was the Italian who next shot to P1. The lap record holder in the previous version of the WSbR car, Bonanomi moved back to the top of the standings with a lap of 1min 22.374secs before the session took a lull.
With teams only having one car for the test, the majority of the drivers handed over to team-mates in the afternoon but, with just over half an hour to go, García returned to the track and took control of affairs again, lapping in 1min 22.031secs and putting top spot beyond the reach of his rivals while, behind him, Marco Barba moved up to fourth position for Draco, while Comtec's Pasquale di Sabatino produced a flying lap right at the death to take third.
"It was a very good day, but fairly tiring because I spent a lot of time on the track," Garcia commented, "I waited until the end of the session to try and set the best time. These test sessions with the new car were very decisive. Now all I have to do is sign for RC Motorsport."
The tests were not however all about performance, however, as fifth-placed Moreau explained.
"The aim was to gather as much information as possible for the team, to identify what needs to be worked on with this new car," the Frenchman commented, "We found a solid base and a good set-up, although, having said that, we broke the clutch in the afternoon, which disrupted our plans somewhat."
Renault Sport Technologies' engineers were also pleased with the first test with the new car.
"Apart from a gearbox problem for Prema Powerteam and a broken clutch on the KTR car, we didn't have any major problems, which can always happen with a new race car," explained track operations manager Emmanuel Esnault, "We are going to improve the driving position and a few technical details but, overall, we are pleased with these test sessions."
The few details that still need to be ironed out will be addressed before the next test, scheduled to take place in Barcelona at the start of April.
Testing times - Valencia (6 March):
Borja Garcia RC 1m 22.031s
Marco Bonanomi Comtec 1m 22.374s
Pasquale di Sabatino Comtec 1m 22.440s
Marco Barba Draco 1m 22.515s
Guillaume Moreau KTR 1m 22.557s
Mikhail Aleshin Carlin 1m 22.633s
Salvador Duran Interwetten 1m 22.672s
Marcos Martinez Pons 1m 22.718s
Giedo van der Garde P1 1m 22.723s
Bertrand Baguette Draco 1m 22.754s
Robert Wickens Carlin 1m 22.778s
Alexandre Marsoin Spsilon Euskadi 1m 23.005s
Daniil Move KTR 1m 23.073s
Julien Jousse Tech 1 1m 23.094s
Fabio Carbone Ultimate Signature 1m 23.261s
Miguel Molina Prema 1m 23.297s
Pablo Sanchez Interwetten 1m 23.392s
James Walker Fortec 1m 23.451s
Charles Pic Tech 1 1m 23.529s
Mario Romancini Epsilon Euskadi 1m 23.618s
Jonny Reid Fortec 1m 24.029s
Alvaro Barba Prema 1m 24.166s
Maximo Cortes Pons 1m 24.440s
Pippa Mann P1 1m 24.952s
Claudio Cantelli Ultimate Signature 1m 25.241s