Robert Wickens made it three different pacesetters in as many days as the final World Series by Renault test of the pre-season came to a close at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.
The Canadian, who immediately left to catch a flight to China for the penultimate round of the A1 Grand Prix series, followed Marco Bonanomi - who jetted to Dubai after day one to contest the GP2 Asia finale - and Fabio Carbone at the head of the daily charts as the WSbR proved as competitive as ever ahead of its opening round in Italy on 26-27 April.
Thursday's weather was perfect for testing and, right from the word go, the drivers launched straight into pursuit of fast lap times, some even opting to switch to a fresh set of tyres without much delay. The in-form Wickens put in a number of quick laps in succession, before posting a 1min 32.971secs effort that pushed him under Bonanomi's time to beat from Tuesday. Once established at the top of the times, Wickens joined his rival in leaving the circuit....
At the point of his departure, Wickens headed Carlin team-mate Mikhail Aleshin, P1's Giedo van der Garde - who proved fast all week without ever testing the end-of-day times - Draco's Marco Barba and Prema's Miguel Molina.
Barba's team-mate Bertrand Baguette then took advantage of a lap with a little less traffic to move up into second position, with Tech 1 rookie Charles Pic doing likewise to improve to third. The teams then made the most of what was left of the morning session to fine-tune their set-ups, with little improvement in times.
"The conditions were ideal this morning, so we just had to switch to a fresh set of tyres," Baguette smiled, "I made a slight error on my fastest lap, but the results are promising. We have been up in the leading group since the start of the testing and that can only be a good sign. Now we are going to switch the car to its Monza set-up, as the season gets underway with one of the big ones!''
As everyone quietly forged ahead with their development programmes in the afternoon session, Wickens time was rarely under threat. Several drivers still had some new tyres at their disposal, which they had been holding back for the closing minutes of testing, even though the track temperature kept on getting hotter and hotter.
The two Interwetten.com cars, driven by Pablo Sanchez ahead of Salvador Duran, headed up the chase, before Tech 1's Julien Jousse, day two pacesetter Carbone and Pons' Marcos Martinez took it in turns to improve on each other's times, without any of them being able to better Wickens' mark - or even those of Baguette and Pic for that matter.
"We have put in some good work over these three days," explained Tech 1's young Frenchman, "We have gained a lot of experience by clocking up a fair amount of kilometres. Now we're really looking forward to the first race of the season to try and transform what we've learnt in testing into results. I'm not familiar with the track at Monza, so I'll have to learn fast, but I can't wait."
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