Pre-season testing for the 2012 Eurocup Megane Trophy came to a close this week with two days of sessions in Barcelona. Picking up where team-mate Niccolo Nalio (Oregon Team) left off at Motorland Aragon, Albert Costa (Oregon Team) and Fabien Thuner (Oregon Team) dominated proceedings, but with half a dozen drivers staying within a second of each other throughout, it promises to be quite a battle for the title.
The drivers lining up in this year’s Eurocup Megane Trophy concluded their preparations for the upcoming season with two days of collective testing at Catalunya. Joining the field after missing the gathering at Motorland Aragon was David Dermont (Team Lompech Sport), last season’s Gentlemen Drivers champion.
The first morning got off to a quiet start, with Nick Catsburg (Algarve Pro Racing) laying down an early marker. The event’s 2010 champion, Catsburg was continuing his development work with Michael Munemann’s outfit and set the fastest time ahead of Costa and Thuner. Though the teams focused more on race conditions in Wednesday’s opening session, the battle continued in the afternoon. Homeboy Costa, the 2009 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion, stopped the clock at 1:51.328 for the day’s quickest lap right at the end of the session, edging out Nalio and Catsburg despite not putting his new tyres on.
Catsburg was first out again in session one on Thursday, as the drivers upped the pace. The Dutchman set the tone by eclipsing Stefano Comini’s Megane Trophy track record of 1:51.240, set last season.
With rain forecast for the middle of the afternoon, the drivers opted for new tyres. Despite not being entirely happy with his car’s set-up, Costa dipped under Catsburg’s time with a lap of 1:50.724, a mark that Thuner then bettered by only ten thousandths of a second. However, just as team-mates Costa and Nalio and fellow title contender Bas Schothorst (TDS Racing) were preparing to respond, down came the rain. Though the positions remained unchanged, the teams continued to work away, among them TDS Racing, whose drivers completed a race simulation.
Only three drivers ventured out on to the damp track, Oliver Freymuth (AKF Motorsport) leading the way from Nicolas Milan (Oregon Team) and Costa, though Thuner’s fastest time remained safe for the rest of the day. The next stop now for the Eurocup Megane Trophy field is the season’s opening race at Motorland Aragon on 5 May.
What they said :
Albert Costa: “My pace has been good at Motorland and Barcelona, which is great for me because I’m new to Eurocup Megane Trophy and I’ve still got a lot to learn. I think I can get a competitive edge when it comes to a race weekend because I’m used to handling the pressure and dealing with race situations after my seasons in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 3.5 Series. We’ve still got work to do, but I’ve got confidence in my team, and it’s all in place for us to do well.”
Nicolas Milan: “These collective testing sessions have been useful. This is my first season in a rear-wheel-drive car and I feel good in it, though there are still a lot of changes I need to make in the way I go about things. I’ve got too many Clio reflexes and I need to change the way I drive. I’ve also got to get used to being a team driver and a team manager, because I’ve still got my Clio Cup team, which is nice.”
Nick Catsburg: “Just as it was at Motorland Aragon, my job here was to help Michael Munemann get the set-up right. That meant I didn’t get to put my new tyres on, and I just focused on working on the car and getting an effective set-up. Whenever I sit in a Megane Trophy I always get a feel for what a wonderful car it is. I still haven’t finalised my 2012 programme yet, and I’ve got a few doors open. I’d love to come back to Eurocup Megane Trophy but my priority is the Endurance series and the GT.”