There were some very blustery conditions in store for the 44 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 drivers on collective testing duty at Motorland Aragon on Monday and Tuesday. Two of the men to shine in the wind were Norman Nato (RC Formula), who went fastest on day one, and Oliver Rowland (Fortec Motorsports), the quickest over the two days. The final collective testing session in the class takes place next week, with the season kicking off at the Spanish track at the start of May.
The young bucks set to contest the 2012 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship are all but ready for the season’s curtain raiser at Motorland Aragon following two days of collective testing at the circuit. And while the Eurocup Clio contenders had rain to contend with at the weekend, by Monday morning it was the wind that was causing all the problems.
With gusts of over 60kmh, the drivers had to change their braking points and keep a firm grip of their surprisingly responsive single-seaters. Understandably, it was the more experienced members of the pack who handled the conditions better, as Stoffel Vandoorne (Josef Kaufmann Racing) set the morning’s benchmark time, ahead of Jordan King (Manor MP Motorsport), Nato and Alex Riberas (Josef Kaufmann Racing).
Though the wind showed no sign of easing off in the afternoon, the pace on the track cranked up a notch or two, with Vandoorne remaining in command for most of the session. Fifth in last year’s Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 standings, the Belgian improved on his morning time but was pipped before the end of the day by Nato’s flying lap of 1:56.439, with Rowland third-fastest and Riberas fourth.
Improved conditions greeted the thankful drivers on Tuesday morning, and they responded with a succession of fastest laps. Rowland was the first to dip under the mark Nato had set the day before, though the Frenchman responded by becoming the first driver to move into the 1m56s. It was Rowland who laid down the law at the end of a crazy hour’s testing, however, with a time of 1:55.558. The 2011 Formula Renault UK 2011 runner-up would remain at the top of the timesheets throughout a session that ended with less than a second separating 21 drivers.
While some of the teams, among them Josef Kaufmann Racing, left the track for Germany and the first leg of the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, where some 40 cars are expected to line up, work continued in the afternoon. Miki Weckstrom (KTR) put in a long series of laps together to lead for much of the final session, only for Melville McKee (Interwetten.com Junior Team) to trump him in the closing minutes with a time of 1:56.476, still nearly a second outside Rowland’s best of the two-day get-together.
What they said:
Oliver Rowland: “This morning’s session was very closely fought and everyone wanted the fastest time. I worked on my tyre management in the afternoon. The car’s going well, the team is on top form and now we just have to sit and wait for the first race. Now that we’ve done these tests we know who the men to beat are. Danny Kvyat, Stoffel Vandoorne and Alex Riberas will be competitive and it’s up to us to pull out all the stops and fight it out with them.”
Norman Nato: “This season I’m competing in a new team with people who’ve got a lot of experience behind them. We’ve learned to work together and we get on well with each other. It’s a big plus for us to have been in the leading group the whole time, but what we need to do is back that up in races. We’re pretty confident, though, because our preparation has been good. I learned a lot last year, but I want to be in the mix for the title this time round.”
Alex Riberas: “We’ve been working well with my team in each of the sessions and we’ve been making steady progress all the time. The important thing is not be the fastest in these tests but to see where we are. There’s no better way of preparing than actually racing and it’s just perfect to be going to Hockenheim this weekend in the FR 2.0 NEC. That’ll help us be 200% going to Motorland Aragon. There’s going to be a lot of competition this season and every point will be vital.”