Dean Smith gave himself something of a headache for next season by showing well on his first acquaintance with the World Series by Renault during last week's group test at Paul Ricard.
The Briton, who produced a similarly solid performance on his belated F3 debut at the end of the British season, joined a number of rapid competitors from across Europe as he sampled Renault's flagship category for the first time, and lapped his Fortec Motorsport car 13th fastest in wet morning conditions before improving to an eventual eighth quickest in the afternoon.
Improving from 1min 19.185secs to 1min 17.180secs between sessions may have looked good, but Smith insists that the jump was still not truly indicative of his place in the order as several drivers took fresh tyres while he remained on older rubber in the drier second outing.
“It was a really good test, but the timesheets at the end of the day didn't reflect how competitive we were,” he explained, “Track conditions changed at the end, which allowed several drivers on new tyres to go quicker.
“When the track was fully wet, we were fastest and, in dry conditions, we were top six, but just got pushed back to eighth at the end. When everyone was on a level playing field, we were only about two-tenths of a second off the race pace of [Marco] Barba, who has a lot of experience in World Series.”
After a luckless season in the FRenault Eurocup this year, the Briton excelled on his race debut in F3 at Donington Park in early October, and now looks likely to decide between that and the World Series before embarking on further testing for 2009.
“We don't have any more testing scheduled at the minute, but I think we're most likely to be back out in an F3 car in the next few weeks,” he revealed, “I really did enjoy the World Series run at Paul Ricard, the car is very quick at race pace, but the toughest part is getting it to be quick on a single qualifying lap.
“The circuit itself is fantastic, probably the best track you can ever go to, but it's just a shame the weather was patchy. It would have been nice to have a full day in the dry or a full day in the wet. When it rains on and off you're not able to truly see where everyone is compared to each other as conditions are changing constantly.”
The World Series car was not the only unfamiliar machine Smith got to grips with at Ricard either, as he had the chance to try out one of Renault Sport's Eurocup Megane Trophy silhouette cars for the first time - and again proved to be in typically strong form at the head of the times.
“The Megane was good, I really enjoyed it and we were quickest, which was great on my debut,” he noted, “We didn't want to use new tyres, as we wanted to save budget, so, when everyone had fresh rubber, we slipped down the times as my tyres were way past their best then.”