The start of the World Series by Renault season is fast approaching, and while it remains to be seen which drivers will be fighting it out for the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series crown, Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports) is proving a very hard man to dislodge from the top of the pre-season timesheets. At the end of day one of the latest two-day get-together, which also saw the cars line up on the grid to go through race-start procedures, last year’s Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion went fastest for the third time in five days of testing so far.
The latest port of call for the 26 drivers who will contest the 2012 FR 3.5 Series is Motorland Aragon, where the new campaign kicks off in early May. And after experiencing rain on their last outing in Barcelona, the drivers were relieved to find ideal conditions in Alcaniz on Wednesday.
The new tyres were out at the start of the morning session as the drivers set about the task of beating Daniel Ricciardo’s track record of 1:42.237, posted last season, and the new FR 3.5’s benchmark time at the circuit, a lap of 1:40.360 set by Romain Grosjean in development tests.
Ricciardo’s time was eclipsed only 19 minutes in, with Kevin Korjus (Tech 1 Racing) dipping under it with a lap of 1:42.068. Attention then turned to Grosjean’s mark. Fittingly it was Lotus driver Richie Stanaway who bettered it, the New Zealander going quickest with a time of 1:40.252.
With two hours gone Nico Müller (International Draco Racing) raised the bar by becoming the first man to move into the 1m40s, his time of 1:39.988 standing out on its own until the very end of the session, when Arthur Pic (Dams) bolted on some new tyres to go round in 1:39.579, closing out the morning ahead of Korjus and Sam Bird (ISR).
The afternoon began with the 26-strong field practising race-start procedures, as the cars lined up on the grid before easing into a formation lap. The focus then turned back to testing, as Frijns muscled his way to the top of the timesheets, where he stayed for most of the afternoon. Briefly dislodged by Marco Sorensen (Lotus), the Dutchman reacted with a flying last lap of 1:39.340 (nearly three seconds faster than the old FR 3.5’s best at the track) to end yet another day’s testing clear of the pack.
What they said:
Robin Frijns: “I did everything wrong this morning. I oversteered and went off three times, though we knew that the car was going well. I had a technical problem and that gave me time to work on my data for a while and analyse my mistakes, and this afternoon we had everything under control. I got into a rhythm, just as I did at Paul Ricard and Barcelona. My worst result last year was fifth and I’ll need something similar again this year.”
Arthur Pic: “We did a lot of driving today because we had quite a few things we wanted to try out. I made a few mistakes with my set of new tyres this afternoon, and I had the resources to do better. We’ve taken a big step forward in terms of our understanding of the car and we’re in a good place right now. I definitely feel a whole lot better in the new car than the old one.”
Kevin Korjus: “We went about our work today with our minds focused on the first race, which will take place on this track. We’ve still got some things we need to try out, which is what testing is for. We’re not here to compare ourselves with the others but to get data together and analyse it. We’ve got more things we want to test tomorrow and we’ll find out in just a few weeks who’s put the best work in.”