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Paul Ricard HTTT – Collective testing 1

At the invitation of Renault Sport Technologies, the best drivers from Formula Renault 2.0, as well as the Eurocup Mégane Trophy champion, tried their hand at the wheel of a Formula Renault 3.5  yesterday at the Paul Ricard HTTT. Collective testing will continue until Friday. Yesterday's heavy rain meant the drivers had a wet track to contend with at the start of the morning session. Wet-weather tyres were a must. And so it was on a slippery and treacherous track that the eleven drivers invited by Renault Sport Technologies got their first taste of Formula Renault 3.5. For Daniel Ricciardo (WEC champion and Eurocup runner-up), Roberto Merhi (WEC runner-up and 4th in Eurocup), Pal Varhaug (Italian champion), Tristan Vautier (French championship runner-up), Jesse Krohn (Finnish champion), Antonio Da Costa (NEC runner-up), Christopher Zanella (Swiss champion), Geoffrey Kwong (FR Asia Leader), Cesar Ramos (7th in Eurocup) and Michaël Rossi (Eurocup Mégane Trophy champion) the task was not easy, but all of them were able to switch to their slicks later in the morning.

Tobias Hegewald (5th in Eurocup) was also invited, but the German driver suffered an injury a few days ago.

Adam Christodoulou (UK Champion) who was today shortlisted for the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award, will be in action on Friday. Today, his cousin, Riki Christodoulou (Red Devil Team Comtec), who finished fifth in Formula Renault UK this year, produced the best performance of the morning. The British driver, who took part in a Formula Renault 3.5 Series testing session last season in Valencia, was followed by Antonio Da Costa (P1 Motorsport), Marco Barba (Prema Powerteam) and Albert Costa (Tech 1 Racing).

The conditions improved in the afternoon, and so, accordingly, did the times. Spanish driver Dani Clos (Epsilon Euskadi) clocked the quickest time of the day in 1'16''150, ahead of Marco Barba and Miguel Molina (KTR). "Formula 3.5 Series is one option for us for 2009. This was a good day for us. We were constantly in the leading group," said Clos. "After a difficult season in Formula 3 it was important for me to put in a good performance today."

Quote, unquote:

Antonio da Costa: «For a young driver like me, it's really lucky to drive a car like this. It's teaching me a lot. And  I was quick too, which makes it all the more enjoyable. In the rain as well as in the dry, I was on the pace. I'm sure this test will stand me in good stead for the 2009 season of Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0.«

Albert Costa: «Despite the wet track this morning, the car's grip is impressive, as are its brakes. I got the feel for it little by little and just kept on improving. It was also very interesting working with Tech 1 Racing. They put me at ease and helped me make good progress. It was a very rewarding test.»

Daniel Ricciardo: «I've had the chance to drive an FR2.0, an F3 and now an FR3.5. It's great for building my experience. The FR 3.5 is the highest performance car I've driven this season.  It is a great drive and I soon felt comfortable. I still have tests lined up for F3 in November and December and then I'm hoping to go back to Australia once everything's decided for 2009.»

Roberto Merhi: «I've learnt a lot today. I'm going to drive all three days, so the aim isn't to set the fastest lap right from the word go! We've worked hard, especially on the set-up. I'm very happy with the car now and I hope that we will be able to up the ante tomorrow.»

Tristan Vautier: «I've never driven such a powerful car. It went well. I could have done better, but I didn't handle the traffic well. In the wet you have to be a lot more disciplined than in FR 2.0. I really want to have another go soon.»

Cesar Ramos: «I'd like to thank everyone for this test, it was incredible. The speed through the bends is amazing. I started with a series of ten laps in the wet, which was no bad thing, as physically it was hard work. I love the car. Now my goal is to race in Formula Renault 3.5 Series next season!»

Pal Varhaug: «The grip, the ground effect, the power: there was a lot to learn today. I had a bit of trouble physically. The car is a lot more demanding than an FR 2.0. Now I know I have a lot of fitness work to do!"

Christopher Zanella: «This car really takes it out on your neck and arms, much more than a Formula Renault 2.0. It was hard work at the start of the morning, then I had a lot of fun in the dry. It was a terrific experience. Next year I'm going to try my hand at Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0.«

Jess Krohn: "There was a lot to take in this morning, the circuit, the car, etc. The FR 3.5 is much more powerful than an FR 2.0. That takes time to get used to, as do the brakes, which are a lot more responsive. It was a really good experience to drive a car like this, it's another world!»

Geoffrey Kwong: «It's hard work trying to get to grips with a car like this in the wet. I didn't take any risks; above all the goal was to understand how the car works and how it differs from an FR 2.0. I'm driving again on Friday and I'll be trying to step up the pace.»

Michaël Rossi: «My last experience in single-seater racing dates back to 2006 in FR 2.0. I got caught out, as I was taking the same racing line as in Mégane, and this was nothing like it! To set a decent time I'd need a lot more practice. Everything is different between Mégane and single-seater racing and I feel more comfortable in Mégane.»

POS CAR DRIVER TEAM LAPS TIME

1 26  Riki CHRISTODOULOU Red Devil Team Comtec 60 01:17.162 2 22 Antonio DaCOSTA P1 Motorsport 60 01:17.617 3 09 Marco BARBA International Draco Racing 68 01:17.703 4 2 Albert COSTA Tech 1 Racing 56 01:18.016 5 7 Dani CLOS Epsilon Euskadi 69 01:18.116 6 3 Tristan VAUTIER International Draco Racing 57 01:18.276 7 1 Alexandre MARSOIN Tech 1 Racing 51 01:18.392 8 14 Jesse KROHN Pons Racing 43 01:18.471 9 25 Cristopher ZANELLA Red Devil Team Comtec 53 01:18.533 10 27 Greg MANSELL Ultimate-Signature 56 01:18.861 11 23 Jake ROSENZWEIG Fortec Motorsport 57 01:18.921 12 8 Roberto MERHI Epsilon Euskadi 46 01:19.178 13 24 Dean SMITH Fortec Motorsport 55 01:19.185 14 21 Walter GRUBMULLER P1 Motorsport 49 01:19.201 15 5 Daniel RICCIARDO Carlin Motorsport 49 01:19.360 16 10 Pal VARHAUG Prema PowerTeam 59 01:19.524 17 28 Cesar RAMOS Ultimate-Signature 46 01:19.577 18 17 Sten PENTUS KTR 52 01:19.855 19 11 Michael ROSSI RC Motorsport 60 01:20.236 20 9 Claudio CANTELLI Prema PowerTeam 57 01:20.349 21 16 Geoffrey KWONG KTR 36 01:24.732

POS CAR DRIVER TEAM LAPS TIME

1 7 Dani CLOS Epsilon Euskadi 61 01:16.150 2 4 Marco BARBA International Draco Racing 38 01:16.188 3 16 Miguel MOLINA KTR 37 01:16.680 4 5 Daniel RICCIARDO Carlin Motorsport 55 01:16.912 5 26 Riki CHRISTODOULOU Red Devil Team Comtec 39 01:16.958 6 8 Roberto MERHI Epsilon Euskadi 56 01:16.958 7 1 Alexandre MARSOIN Tech 1 Racing 45 01:16.990 8 24 Dean SMITH Fortec Motorsport 64 01:17.180 9 21 Walter GRUBMULLER P1 Motorsport 60 01:17.254 10 28 Esteban GUERRIERI Ultimate-Signature 55 01:17.274 11 27 Greg MANSELL Ultimate-Signature 52 01:17.304 12 9 Claudio CANTELLI Prema PowerTeam 43 01:17.327 13 23 Jake ROSENZWEIG Fortec Motorsport 50 01:17.369 14 10 Pal VARHAUG Prema PowerTeam 41 01:17.876 15 25 Max CHILTON Red Devil Team Comtec 46 01:17.900 16 17 Sten PENTUS KTR 29 01:18.439 17 3 Omar LEAL International Draco Racing 56 01:18.451 18 2 Anton NEBYLITSKIY Tech 1 Racing 37 01:18.451 19 6 Oliver TURVEY Carlin Motorsport 12 01:18.813 20 12 Jakub KNOLL RC Motorsport 59 01:22.761