Formula Master points leader Chris van der Drift made an impressive debut in the latest GP2 Series car when he joined Trident Racing for last week's group test at Paul Ricard, but warned both seasoned rivals and ambitious hopefuls that there is more to come should he get another chance.
The 22-year old New Zealander took a break from his title-chasing 2008 campaign to join former F1 pilot Narain Karthikeyan in the Trident camp for the two-day test, emerging with two top five performances that left him as the second fastest newcomer on show.
"The test went very well," van der Drift acknowledged, "On Thursday, we made a new seat and, at the end of the afternoon, I could still get out on track for the last hour. We used that time to ensure that everything was working as it should, and it gave me a chance to get to know the new car. It was very pleasing therefore, that, after a few laps, and on old tyres, I was quicker than Karthikeyan."
Friday, however, was even more impressive as van der Drift got into his stride and caused problems for the top five in both sessions.
"My lap times were very good straight off and, with a new set of tyres, I took what was ultimately the fifth fastest time of the [morning] session," he reported, "I know that there are a couple of tenths I can grab as, on my quick lap, I came across some other cars. I tried again to do a quicker lap but, because the tyres were past their peak, that wasn't possible. All in all, though, it was a good time.
"In the afternoon session, I began with a set of good tyres and was able to set the fourth quickest lap before it began to rain. Of course, I am very pleased with the effort, as I have been able to prove that am capable of mixing it with the top drivers. This is certainly not a bad effort for a first test with the new GP2 car - and I know that there are still a few tenths that can be found."
Both Karthikeyan and van der Drift were applauded for the level of feedback they were able to provide to the team, which now splits its activities between the forthcoming GP2 Asia Series and evaluating drivers for next year's European summer series.
"These two days of testing were extremely positive for us," team MD Alessandro Alunni Bravi confirmed, "Trident Racing proved once again to have what it takes to bring its drivers to the top, as Chris, who only really ran on day two, took fifth place in the morning session and ended up as the second best rookie behind Sam Bird, who covered both days. He even improved in the afternoon, taking fourth place and showing an outstanding ability on his debut behind the wheel of a GP2 Series car."
The dual nationality driver also received some positive feedback of his own regarding next season.
"Chris is one of the brightest talents in motorsports, and we've been following him for a long time," Bravi continued, "We really hope to sign him for a full GP2 season [in 2009]. He's working hard to find some good sponsors and come aboard sooner than that if possible.