Costa, a force to be reckoned with

Barcelona – Collective Testing

Thirty one drivers, representing thirteen countries, gathered in Barcelona for this season's first Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 collective test. Just a few miles from home, Albert Costa (Epsilon Euskadi) took full advantage of his knowledge of the track and the race car to produce a fine performance. After setting the best time in the two days of testing, he is clearly going to be a force to be reckoned with this year.

On Wednesday morning, the drivers gave themselves a few minutes to get their bearings, completing a few warm-up laps, before getting down to business. Jean-Éric Vergne (SG Formula), 6th in the 2008 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, made the most of his  experience to set the time to beat with 1'47''805. The pace picked up gradually as the laps went by. Swiss driver Nico Müller (Jenzer Motorsport) took the lead after the first hour of testing.

Albert Costa, one of last season's revelations, moved ahead of the pack with a time of 1'45''752. Then, Patrick Kronenberger (Iquick) went better, with a lap of 1'45''700, just as the first drops of rain began to fall. There was no chance of improving in the rain. Patrick Kronenberger therefore held the lead, ahead of Albert Costa and Johan Jokinen (Iquick). The top seventeen drivers were separated by less than a second!

Rain persisted on the Catalunya track throughout Wednesday afternoon. The second session saw a few incidents, resulting in the session being regularly red-flagged. Luciano Bacheta (Epsilon Sport) managed best on the wet track, ahead of Miki Monras (SG Formula), Daniel Mancinelli (IT Loox Racing), Albert Costa and Jean Éric Vergne.

Sunny conditions returned on Thursday. Johan Jokinen, Kevin Magnussen (Motopark Academy) and Patrick Kronenberger swapped places at the top of the timing screens on several occasions. But the "old hands" grabbed back control of proceedings, significantly upping the pace. Albert Costa and Jean-Éric Vergne took it in turns to improve the best time set the day before. The Spaniard came into the pits for new tyres and went back out looking to grab the best time as the session drew to a close. With a lap of 1'44"850, he moved ahead of Vergne.

Arthur Pic (SG Formula) made a name for himself in the latter part of the session, squeezing in between Costa and Vergne. "I won the Formul'Academy Euro Series last year. Formula Renault 2.0 is different ball game", explained the Frenchman. "To start with, I was a bit lost, but the team have been working really well and they have helped me find my way". Fourth-fastest Kevin Magnussen's viewpoint is very similar: "I was Formula Ford Denmark champion last season. I'm only 16 and still have a lot to learn this year. I must get to grips with the car in a category that I've never experienced before!"

The drivers put together some long series of laps in the afternoon. Albert Costa maintained his good form with the best time, ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Genis Olivé (Jenzer Motorsport) and Nick de Bruijn (MP Motorsport).

With five minutes of the session to go, Albert Costa consolidated his first position, with a lap of 1'45''255, but was unable to match the time he recorded towards the end of the morning session.

Collective testing was interrupted with three minutes left, after Nigel Melker (MP Motorsport) crashed. Costa led from Müller, Jokinen and Vergne in this session and remained the best performer of these two days of collective testing. "I had a tough winter, looking for sponsors", admitted Albert Costa. "After a rewarding first year, in which I still made a few mistakes, my goal is to win the title this year. I know the car well and I try to get close to the limit in each session. It's an encouraging start, but the season will be difficult. Jean-Éric Vergne is also one of the clear favourites."

The next collective test sessions will be held at Le Mans on March 10-11.

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