Marco Barba in between the drops

Le Mans - Collective testing - Day 1

Just a week after the Nürburgring leg, Formula Renault 3.5 Series is already in residence for the Le Mans weekend. And with the first day of collective testing marked by showery conditions, it's been International Draco Racing's Marco Barba who has put in a strong showing. The Spanish driver finishes the day ahead of Charles Pic (Tech 1 Racing) and Marco Bonanomi (Red Devil Team Comtec).

The track was wet though the rain had stopped by the time the Formula Renault 3.5 Series competitors took to the track for the first session of collective testing. Fabio Carbone (Ultimate Signature) was the first to put in a quick lap and climb to the top of the class.

The session was interrupted after just half an hour when Pablo Sanchez (Interwetten.com), Fairuz Fauzy (Fortec Motorsport) and Sergey Afanasiev (KTR) all lost their way through the «Chicane Dunlop». You guessed it: the rain was back at the Bugatti circuit! At this point, Fabio Carbone had the best time, ahead of Miguel Molina (Prema Powerteam), Robert Wickens (Carlin Motorsport), Giedo Van der Garde (P1 Motorsport) and Pablo Sanchez (Interwetten.com Racing).

Eventually the rain gave in and with thirty five minutes to go before the chequered flag, Mikhail Aleshin (Carlin Motorsport) went on the attack with a 1'27''115 lap.

With the conditions now dry, most of the drivers got out on track to try their luck. The morning session ended with Marco Bonanomi (Red Devil Team Comtec) at the top of the standings. With a best lap time of 1'26''410, he had overtaken Marco Barba (International Draco Racing) and Mikhail Aleshin.

The drivers got down to serious work straight after lunch. Almost everyone was in action and putting in longer runs. Giedo Van der Garde, Bertrand Baguette, Marco Barba and Fabio Carbone fought for the leader spot until Robert Wickens took over, throwing in an impressive 1'26''397 lap time.

After a brief period under the red flag though, drivers got back in action and quickly upped the pace. Fabio Carbone, and then Giedo Van der Garde seemed to have the beating of the pack. But towards the end of the session, fortunes were to turn in favour of Marco Barba. The Spaniard was the first to drop below the 1'26 mark. With 1'25''743 then 1'25''710, he raced into the lead. Charles Pic improved his own time and took over second spot, ahead of Marco Bonanomi, Bertrand Baguette and Salvador Duran (Interwetten.com racing).

At this point, the rain once again descended from the heavens, ending hopes of any faster laps. So Marco Barba finished this first day's collective testing in the lead and well pleased with the day's events. «This is the first time this season I've been familiar with the track. For once, I can get down to work from the off, without having to learn and understand a new circuit. It's only Thursday, but it is encouraging to start the weekend like this. Both our team's cars are on the pace, and that means we have every chance. It's a good sign. »

We can look forward to two more collective testing sessions programmed for tomorrow.

Pos Driver Team Time S1 Lap S1 Time S2 Lap S2 Time Gap First Gap Previous  1 Marco BARBA INTERNATIONAL DRACO RACING 1:26.472 28 1:25.710 21 1:25.710       2 Charles PIC TECH 1 RACING 1:26.714 24 1:25.778 30 1:25.778 +0.068 +0.068   3 Marco BONANOMI RED DEVIL TEAM COMTEC 1:26.410 24 1:25.865 22 1:25.865 +0.155 +0.087   4 Bertrand BAGUETTE INTERNATIONAL DRACO RACING 1:26.762 30 1:25.942 28 1:25.942 +0.232 +0.077   5 Salvador DURAN INTERWETTEN.COM RACING 1:27.287 23 1:26.048 25 1:26.048 +0.338 +0.106   6 Alexandre MARSOIN EPSILON-EUSKADI 1:27.242 24 1:26.061 34 1:26.061 +0.351 +0.013   7 Giedo Van Der GARDE P1 MOTORSPORT 1:26.619 20 1:26.091 21 1:26.091 +0.381 +0.030   8 Marcos MARTINEZ PONS RACING 1:27.404 22 1:26.101 25 1:26.101 +0.391 +0.010   9 Esteban GUERRIERI ULTIMATE-SIGNATURE 1:27.095 18 1:26.145 21 1:26.145 +0.435 +0.044   10 Miguel MOLINA PREMA POWERTEAM 1:26.971 28 1:26.167 17 1:26.167 +0.457 +0.022   11 Julien JOUSSE TECH 1 RACING 1:34.307 12 1:26.198 12 1:26.198 +0.488 +0.031   12 Fabio CARBONE ULTIMATE-SIGNATURE 1:27.226 22 1:26.314 17 1:26.314 +0.604 +0.116   13 Robert WICKENS CARLIN MOTORSPORT 1:26.661 22 1:26.397 9 1:26.397 +0.687 +0.083   14 Mikhail ALESHIN CARLIN MOTORSPORT 1:26.548 17 1:26.682 25 1:26.548 +0.838 +0.151   15 Fairuz FAUZY FORTEC MOTORSPORT 1:28.856 12 1:26.561 23 1:26.561 +0.851 +0.013   16 Mario ROMANCINI EPSILON-EUSKADI 1:27.696 21 1:26.597 24 1:26.597 +0.887 +0.036   17 James WALKER FORTEC MOTORSPORT 1:28.217 24 1:26.615 28 1:26.615 +0.905 +0.018   18 Pasquale DiSABATINO RED DEVIL TEAM COMTEC 1:27.775 19 1:26.639 23 1:26.639 +0.929 +0.024   19 Aleix ALCARAZ PONS RACING 1:28.643 28 1:26.733 28 1:26.733 +1.023 +0.094   20 Alvaro BARBA PREMA POWERTEAM 1:27.595 18 1:27.038 22 1:27.038 +1.328 +0.305   21 Paolo Maria NOCERA RC MOTORSPORT 1:28.563 25 1:27.226 15 1:27.226 +1.516 +0.188   22 Claudio CANTELLI RC MOTORSPORT 1:28.523 26 1:27.310 25 1:27.310 +1.600 +0.084   23 Pippa MANN P1 MOTORSPORT 1:27.783 22 1:27.342 9 1:27.342 +1.632 +0.032   24 Pablo SANCHEZ INTERWETTEN.COM RACING 1:28.969 14 1:27.469 23 1:27.469 +1.759 +0.127   25 Siso CUNILL KTR 1:28.736 21 1:28.116 20 1:28.116 +2.406 +0.647   26 Sergey AFANASIEV KTR 1:38.525 4 1:28.672 26 1:28.672 +2.962 +0.556