Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird topped the first in-season test of the 2018/19 Formula E season at Ad Diriyah in Saudi Arabia. 

The test followed the season-opening inaugural Ad Diriyah E-Prix, won by BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa, and featured a diverse line-up including nine female drivers as part of the all-electric series’ push to encourage female participation. 

Bird turned in a new unofficial track record around the 1.5-mile, 21-turn street circuit, managing a 1m09.668s in Virgin’s Audi-powered Gen2 machinery during the afternoon session, having taken over from teammate and morning pacesetter Robin Frijns. 

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Reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne was the only other driver to dip below the 1m10 mark as he ended up 0.133s behind for Techeetah. 

The shared Nissan e.dams entry of Carmen Jordan and Oliver Rowland wound up third-quickest, with new recruit Rowland setting the fastest time in the #22 car on a 1m10.264s, having spent the majority of the session with the  fastest time. 

Ex-McLaren Formula 1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne completed the most laps of the afternoon but brought out a late red flag as he stopped on track in his HWA after posting the fourth-best time, ahead of Jaguar’s Mitch Evans and Audi rookie Nico Muller. 

Edoardo Mortara ended the day seventh for Venturi, having taken over from 2018/19 teammate Felipe Massa in the afternoon, while the #7 Dragon car shared by Jose Maria Lopez and Pippa Mann was eighth, ahead of Ad Diriyah podium finisher Jerome d’Ambrosio and Venturi test driver Simona de Silvestro, who rounded out the top 10 and ended the test as the quickest female driver. 

Her laptime was slightly faster than the 1m12.229s managed by Tatiana Calderon for Techeetah, while Jamie Chadwick set a best time of 1m13.042s driving for NIO in the afternoon session. 

The day was disrupted by five red flag periods, as Amna Al Qubaisi damaged her Virgin car in a hit with the Turn 6 wall, forcing the Emirati driver to miss the afternoon running. The other two morning red flags were caused by separate stoppages for Dragon’s Max Gunther and Muller.

NIO’s Tom Dillmann crashed in the afternoon with just over an hour remaining, bringing an end to his and teammate Oliver Turvey’s running, before Vandoorne’s late problem. 

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