Around 30 cars are expected to line up for the opening race of the second Eurocup Clio season at Spa-Francorchamps in early June, with several drivers taking the opportunity to put in two days of testing this weekend at Motorland Aragon. Making light of the windy and wet conditions, Simone di Luca (Rangoni Motorsport) went fastest of all, though there was little to choose between the Italian and the rest of the pack
With the national Clio Cup championships already under way or about to do so, some 13 drivers pitched up at Motorland Aragon this weekend for the one and only collective testing meeting in the build-up to the 2012 Eurocup Clio season. And there was a damp start to proceedings on Saturday morning, forcing drivers to bolt on wet tyres in a bid to get some grip.
The winner of the first two races in the Clio Cup France campaign, Marc Guillot (Milan Competition) set the early pace ahead of his new team-mate Jordi Palomeras (Milan Competition), who finished third in last year’s Clio Cup Spain, and Switzerland’s Frederic Yerly (Gruyere Racing Team). As the rain eased off in the afternoon and track conditions improved, the lap times started to tumble, Palomeras going round in 2:22.234 to end day one atop the timesheets from 2011 Clio Cup Italy champion Oscar Nogues (Rangoni Motorsport).
After Saturday’s rain, a strong wind provided the biggest hindrance on Sunday, especially on the track’s long straight. Before the race simulations got under way the new tyres were on, leading to some intense competition as the drivers sought to post some pre-season markers. Nogues laid down the gauntlet with a time of 2:22.118, which drew an immediate reaction from the Milan Competition crew, as Guillot became the first to dip under 2:22 with a time of 2:21.895, just ahead of stable-mate Palomeras.
Seventh in last year’s Eurocup Clio standings, Holland’s Robert van den Berg (Harders Plaza Racing) had the final word of the morning, however, putting in a time of 2:21.679. In the afternoon Di Luca went even faster, the Italian sitting in the slipstream of his team-mates down the straights to record the quickest lap of the weekend at 2:21.416.
The 2008 Clio Cup Italy champion and fourth in the Eurocup Clio standings last year, Di Luca ended the weekend ahead of Van den Berg and Guillot, providing him with the perfect preparation for the campaign ahead. All three are expected to figure in the battle for championship, though they will be joined by a clutch of other title contenders on the grid at Spa-Francorchamps, among them Mike Verschuur (Equipe Verschuur), last year’s runner-up in the class and the leading junior driver. In the meantime, however, the season’s candidates will be tuning up in the national Clio Cup competitions.
What they said:
Simone di Luca: “With their strategy last year, Milan Competition showed how important it is to drive as a team. We’re well equipped this season and we’ve got a few drivers who are capable of winning. We need to use our heads to reach our goal, and that’s to top the podium.”
Robert van den Berg: “We put in a lot of hard work last season and we tried out some new set-ups. I’ve never been to Motorland Aragon before and the first thing I had to do was get to know the track. I’m looking to win this season, but that won’t be an easy task as I’m competing on my own against teams with a lot of experience in the Clio class. What I’m looking for is to get some support from a good team-mate to achieve that goal.
Marc Guillot: “Even though there were only 13 cars here you can see it’s going to be a tough season. A lot of good drivers are going to be joining us, including Mike Verschuur, who’s the favourite to my mind. After taking the winter off, I’ve got some Clio races lined up in France and Spain and my aim is to be race ready by the time Spa comes around.”
Jordi Palomeras: “Over these last two days we’ve put in some good groundwork for the season ahead, especially with the race simulations. I’ve settled in well with Milan Competition. They’re the best team and it’s great to pair up with Marc Guillot, who knows all there is to know about the Clio.”