Leading French GP3 outfit ART Grand Prix have continued their dominant form in pre season testing ahead of the inaugural season of GP3, which will be supporting the FIA Formula One World Championship at the European race weekends.

The reigning GP2 Champions have thus far topped all but one of the test sessions and have secured cars numbers one, two and three for the forthcoming season after the mini qualifying session during the previous collective test at Paul Ricard in France.

The morning saw all thirty youngsters have to adapt to the track conditions, as rain during the previous day left the track damp, and the low temperatures meant that the Circuit de Cataluña was slow to dry.

The first car to try out the track conditions was the #6 car of Daniel Morad of Status Grand Prix, and during the opening three hour session, the drivers completed four hundred and fourteen laps in a session marred by a number of red flags.

ART Grand Prix were one of the last teams to take to the track for the morning session – the late arrival on track wasn't a hindrance as they continued their flying start to the series, with Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez topping the times in the #2 ART Grand Prix car. Gutierrez set a best time of 1:37.850, a lap which was almost seven tenths of a second faster than Renger Van Der Zande and a whole second faster than team mate Alexander Rossi in the sister car of ART Grand Prix.

Paul Ricard saw Nigel Melker top a session and he carried on his impressive form as he set the fourth fastest time during the morning, closely followed by 2009 Formula Renault UK Champion Dean Smith, who has recently been signed by the Carlin team – Smith set a best time of 1:38.925.

Behind the top five, Miki Monras finished sixth, young Romanian racer Doru Sechelariu seventh – he had been running in the top three earlier in the session. Behind the youngster from Tech 1 Racing, Michael Christensen from Arden, Manor saw their driver James Jakes finish ninth and Pablo Sanchez Lopez for Addax Team rounded out the top ten.

Morning results:

Position Number Name Team Nationality Time AM
1 2 Esteban Gutierrez MEX ART Grand Prix 1:37.850s
2 11 Renger Van Der Zande NED RSC Mucke Motorsport 1:38.523s
3 1 Alexander Rossi USA ART Grand Prix 1:38.738s
4 10 Nigel Melker NED RSC Mucke Motorsport 1:38.874s
5 15 Dean Smith GBR Carlin 1:38.925s
6 21 Miki Monras ESP MW Arden 1:38.946s
7 26 Doru Secherariu ROM Tech 1 Racing 1:39.038s
8 20 Michael Christensen DEN MW Arden 1:39.092s
9 7 James Jakes GBR Manor Racing 1:39.107s
10 18 Pablo Sanchez Lopez MEX Addax Team 1:39.115s
11 14 Josef Newgarden USA Carlin 1:39.242s
12 17 Felipe Guimaraes BRA Addax Team 1:39.290s
13 6 Daniel Morad LIB Status Grand Prix 1:39.313s
14 16 Lucas Foresti BRA Carlin 1:39.411s
15 3 Pedro Nunes BRA ART Grand Prix 1:39.415s
16 24 Simon Trummer SUI Jenzer Motorsport 1:39.380s
17 4 Robert Wickens CAN Status Grand Prix 1:39.397s
18 12 Tobias Hegewald GER RSC Mucke Motorsport 1:39.708s
19 19 Mirko Bortolotti ITA Addax Team 1:39.936s
20 25 Nico Muller SUI Jenzer Motorsport 1:39.984s
21 28 Fabio Onidi ITA Tech 1 Racing 1:40.110s
22 8 Rio Haryanto INA Manor Racing 1:40.426s
23 29 Patrick Reiterer ITA Atech CRS GP 1:40.489s
24 22 Leonardo Cordeiro BRA MW Arden 1:40.607s
25 9 Jordan Oakes GBR Manor Racing 1:40.616s
26 5 Ivan Lukashevich RUS Status Grand Prix 1:41.093s
27 31 Marko Asmer EST Atech CRS GP 1:41.101s
28 30 Oliver Oakes GBR Atech CRS GP 1:45.558s
29 27 Stefano Colleti MON Tech 1 Racing 1:48.051s
30 23 Pal Varhaug NOR Jenzer Motorsport 1:53.187s

The afternoon session saw ART Grand Prix and Gutierrez carry on their Barcelona domination, though the team were pushed by a number of the other teams and drivers during the three hour afternoon session.

As in the morning, the session was again disrupted by a number of red flags, and the session produced a number of surprises. The reliability of the brand new cars however has again been shown as one thousand four hundred and fifty-seven laps were completed during the day, totalling over 6700kms during the day.

Mexican Gutierrez again set the standard for the others to match, and his fastest time of the session was half a second faster than his nearest rival, the #21 car of Miki Monras of MW Arden. This time meant that for the first time, Monras was in the top three and the second time that MW Arden graced the top three.

Third fastest in the afternoon was Canadian Robert Wickens of Status Grand Prix, Wickens time being a 1:37.933.

Behind the top three was RSC Mucke Motorsport's Dutch driver Renger van der Zande, with Formula Renault graduate Smith finishing the afternoon fifth overall.

Rounding out the top ten from the opening afternoon was Monras' team mate Michael Christensen, Mirko Bortolotti of Addax team, Simon Trummer of Jenzer Motorsport, RSC Mucke Motorsport saw another driver in the top ten as Nigel Melker ninth and the #1 car of young American Alexander Rossi finishing tenth.

Speaking after the opening day of the final test, pace setter Gutierrez said: “I've been enjoying the test in Barcelona; it's been more interesting for me because the car behaves so differently to Circuit Paul Ricard. We've been using all of our data from the two previous tests and running to a really busy testing schedule, especially working on race set-up. Even though ART have been at the top of nearly every test session we never get over confident. I am ready for the first race, but as always we will keep trying to improve and keep pushing tomorrow.”

Monras commented on his days work: “Despite being fast in the previous tests we have had problems with the car, but today went really well and all of our teething problems have been resolved. I feel much happier. The team are doing a fantastic job and trying different set-ups and I am sure we can catch up to ART by the first race – it's my home race and the track I know best so I am definitely more confident about getting a good result.”

Wickens added on his day's performance: “The last two tests we have been in the top five, and now the top three so we are moving in the right direction – although we still have some work to do to catch ART. I struggled this morning as quite a few of the teams did. The conditions weren't ideal and there were a lot of red flags, but I feel more confident now. Cataluña is one of my favourite circuits and I always seem to do well here so I can't wait for the first race.”

Afternoon results for day one:

Position Number Name Team Nationality Time PM
1 2 Esteban Gutierrez MEX ART Grand Prix 1:37.480s
2 21 Miki Monras ESP MW Arden 1:37.928s
3 4 Robert Wickens CAN Status Grand Prix 1:37.933s
4 11 Renger Van Der Zande NED RSC Mucke Motorsport 1:38.008s
5 15 Dean Smith GBR Carlin 1:38.016s
6 20 Michael Christensen DEN MW Arden 1:38.076s
7 19 Mirko Bortolotti ITA Addax Team 1:38.130s
8 24 Simon Trummer SUI Jenzer Motorsport 1:38.213s
9 10 Nigel Melker NED RSC Mucke Motorsport 1:38.252s
10 1 Alexander Rossi USA ART Grand Prix 1:38.273s
11 17 Felipe Guimaraes BRA Addax Team 1:38.331s
12 6 Daniel Morad LIB Status Grand Prix 1:38.451s
13 30 Oliver Oakes GBR Atech CRS GP 1:38.488s
14 12 Tobias Hegewald GER RSC Mucke Motorsport 1:38.598s
15 8 Rio Haryanto INA Manor Racing 1:38.606s
16 7 James Jakes GBR Manor Racing 1:38.614s
17 26 Doru Secherariu ROM Tech 1 Racing 1:38.707s
18 18 Pablo Sanchez Lopez MEX Addax Team 1:38.714s
19 25 Nico Muller SUI Jenzer Motorsport 1:38.719s
20 14 Josef Newgarden USA Carlin 1:38.859s
21 16 Lucas Foresti BRA Carlin 1:38.863s
22 27 Stefano Colleti MON Tech 1 Racing 1:38.928s
23 3 Pedro Nunes BRA ART Grand Prix 1:38.957s
24 22 Leonardo Cordeiro BRA MW Arden 1:38.965s
25 23 Pal Varhaug NOR Jenzer Motorsport 1:39.206s
26 31 Marko Asmer EST Atech CRS GP 1:39.446s
27 28 Fabio Onidi ITA Tech 1 Racing 1:39.548s
28 5 Ivan Lukashevich RUS Status Grand Prix 1:39.882s
29 9 Jordan Oakes GBR Manor Racing 1:40.078s
30 29 Patrick Reiterer ITA Atech CRS GP 1:40.096s

Photo credit: Alastair Staley/GP3 Media Service