Having bided their time over the opening day-and-a-half, Lucas di Grassi and reigning drivers' champion Fat Burner Racing Engineering finally showed their hand by posting the fastest time on day of the GP2 Series group test at Paul Ricard.
With comparisons to day one negated by the first change of track layout scheduled for the three-day test, di Grassi - who helped Barwa Team Campos to the team's title in 2008 - set the 2A circuit benchmark at 1min 08.841secs, with rookie team-mate Dani Clos posting the biggest challenge to the Brazilian.
“So far, the test is going very well,'' di Grassi commented, ''Yesterday, I finished second and, today, I am first. Our aim is to validate the car's development done during the winter, so we are not really concerned about the lap times. We need to concentrate on making the car better and faster for the races but, overall, I am happy with the results.”
Second and sixth in the morning session - with Spaniard Clos ahead of his more illustrious team-mate - headed a slew of faster afternoon times as the sun continued to shine on the south of France, with Clos' 1min 08.961secs effort and Pastor Maldonado's 1min 08.985secs also ducking under Romain Grosjean's morning best.
“This was a very positive day,'' Clos reported, ''We basically worked on developing the car as much as possible and, for me, it is very important to get track time and get used to the car more and more. These two days have actually been the first time I have driven this car in the dry, but the balance of the day is very positive and the engineers, the entire team, have made a good job. We tried several things during the day and we finished with a very efficient and fast car.”
Day one pacesetter Javier Villa also underlined his strong testing form with fourth spot in the afternoon for Super Nova, but the Spaniard narrowly missed overtaking Grosjean on the combined timesheets.
Campos' Vitaly Petrov completed the PM top five, with DAMS duo Kamui Kobayashi and Jerome d'Ambrosio sandwiching Nico Hülkenberg ahead of Grosjean, as the expected frontrunners packed the top ten. The rest of the field proved closely matched, however, with 22 drivers finishing within the same second, although Telmex Arden's Edoardo Mortara and Ocean Racing's Alvaro Parente - who had finished in respectable sixth and eighth positions during the afternoon - saw their times deleted after it was found that they were running underweight.
Despite the setback, Parente again served notice that he and the new ORT outfit will be a force this season. The 24-year old was a frequent presence on track, completing in excess of 30 laps in each session as he continued to adapt the now two-tone blue Dallara to his style - and even admitted that the loss of his afternoon times was down to him.
“This morning, we wanted to understand the car's level,'' he explained, ''I was pleased with its basic set-up but think that there is potential to improve. During the afternoon, we tried different solutions and achieved some good conclusions, but my times were deleted because my car was underweight. I think that that happened because I ran a lap too much!