Holder of the new track record for the Formula Renault Eurocup since yesterday, Alexander Smolyar (R-ace GP) was back at it Saturday with a lap of 1:59.415s. The SMP Racing protégé was followed by Renault Sport Academy driver Victor Martins (MP Motorsport) and Lorenzo Colombo (MP Motorsport). Fastest rookie at Magny-Cours, Ugo de Wilde (JD Motorsport) was once again the quickest newcomer and sixth overall at Circuit Paul Ricard.

After finishing day one of the collective tests in style, Alexander Smolyar made good use of the ideal conditions and absence of wind – in contrast to Friday – to lower his record time to 1:59.415s to lead from Victor Martins and Oscar Piastri (R-ace GP).

In session two, Victor Martins narrowed the gap with his best lap of 1:59.444s, as did Lorenzo Colombo to post best time in session three at 1:59.633s. The Italian also kicked-off the final sprint in the day’s final test, but in the end, it was Victor Martins on top at 1:59.433s, 0.018s adrift the morning’s best of Alexander Smolyar.

Morning combined times - Afternoon combined times

The Formula Renault Eurocup will hold its final pre-season collective test at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on April 2nd and 3rd.

Victor Martins just a whisper behind Smolyar

Victor Martins (MP Motorsport): “I think that the much warmer conditions this afternoon explain the gap to Smolyar. Gaining experience with the team is what is most important, while also improving the car. We learned a lot in the race simulations and we get better every time we go out. We also found two or three secrets that I will naturally keep to myself. We are confident, but we will keep working hard before the start to the season.”

Ugo de Wilde confirms

Ugo de Wilde (JD Motorsport): “I am very happy with the job done with the team and my coach despite it being a little harder here than it was at Magny-Cours. We are in the middle of our development programme and we’ve done a tremendous amount of work on the set-ups with the new, fresh and used tyres. It’s nuts to see how just one-degree difference can change everything! We’ve all done a good job in learning slowly, but steadily, and we have to keep doing it. I also did my first start simulations. I struggled at first, but through repetition I am getting there. As the adage goes, things come in threes! We will try to stay among the top five and also be the top rookie in Barcelona.“

Three determined rookies in the thick of it

Esteban Muth (M2 Competition): “It has been a positive start in my Formula Renault Eurocup debut. Compared to an F4, the steering is more physical, but it also has more downforce, without overlooking the turbo that brings its own challenges. We have been doing a lot of testing as well as a few other little things and we are quite confident with how our development has gone up to now. Honestly, I still don’t now where we are in the field. I hope to be in the lead group, because the team has really done an outstanding job, while having to learn a brand-new category. We should be in a decent spot and quickly make up ground to the leaders. That’s the goal anyway! In the meantime, we still have to work on the long stints, because I think it will be one of the keys to the season."

Patrik Pasma (Arden Motorsport): “Having raced in Great Britain before, my main challenge is to learn all the circuits as well as the new car. For now, I just want to improve in every session. The car is also a lot more physical with the downforce and grip. I like it a lot, and my experience with the Hankook tyres has made the learning process easier. It is a good reference point and I think I can aim for the top five by the end of the season!”

Petr Ptáček (BhaiTech Racing): “Myself, my team mate and the entire team is moving forward. Our work has seen us make a big step forward compared to last week. The car is very nice and lively but also very hard to drive. You just have to get used to it, and I hope that we find the right set-ups before Monza. We will all give it everything we have. I know all of the team’s qualities and how they work. At this point we are in a pretty good position, but it won’t be until Monza where we see where we really are and we will have to improve all-season long.”