A trio of Auto GP teams were in action for two days of testing at Valencia's Circuit Ricardo Tormo on January 17-18. Campos Racing, who are a new entry to the series, were present at the test, along with the Durango and Lazarus teams who competed in 2010.
With this being the first time that Campos had been on track with the Auto GP Lola-Zyteks, the Spanish team focussed on getting acquainted with the car on the opening day of the test. Despite this, both European F3 Open champion Marco Barba and Indy Lights driver Adrian Campos Jr (son of the team boss) set impressive lap times. Barba's fastest time was a 1m23.2, with Campos Jr's quickest time a 1m23.5.
Durango set the fastest lap time on the opening day. The Italian ran both Giovanni Venturini, who raced in the Formula Renault Eurocup in 2010, and Giuseppe Cipriani, who raced for the team at the final round of the 2010 Auto GP season. It was 19-year-old Venturini who topped the timesheets, with a 1m23.1. 45-year-old Cipriani closed the first day with a best time of 1m25.2.
Lazarus ran Fabio Onidi, a partnership that had raced in the series through 2010. Focussing on a set-up programme, Onidi's best laptime was 1m23.8.
With the track conditions improving on the second day, average laptimes came down by as much as a second. After getting to know the Lola-Zytek on the opening day, the Campos drivers were able to focus on quick laptimes on the second day. This allowed Barba to set the fastest time with a 1m21.8. Campos Jr also improved to set the second quickest time with a 1m22.5.
“The car really impressed me,” said pacesetter Barba. “My best laptime was quicker than the 1m22 I managed in testing with the World Series car, a laptime that came on a very 'rubbered' track and after 4 days of testing. Considering that both me and the team were at the first contact with the Auto GP car I'm sure we can be even faster, but I'm really happy of our pace. The car is good overall, the chassis gives a very good feeling both in the slow and fast sectors, and the engine is amazing. It was a very positive session and now I'll keep working with Campos Racing to prepare for the season.”
“Testing was good and the car is just awesome, there are no other words to define it,” said Campos Jr. “I'm coming from a season in USA and I think that on a track like Valencia Auto GP could be quicker than an Indycar. Undoubtedly it's way quicker than the Indy Lights I was driving in 2010, it has 200 bhp more and it's better in everything it does, including braking. The team worked flawlessly and after each setup change we were improving, meaning that we already understood the car. Now I really hope that I will be on the grid in of the 2011 season.”
At Lazarus, Onidi was replaced by Fabrizio Crestani, who raced in both Auto GP and GP2 in 2010. Crestani matched Campos Jr's best time of 1m22.5. Team Principal Tancredi Pagiaro was pleased with how the test had gone.
“I think it's a very good result because Fabrizio had not driven the Auto GP car since June, and both he and the team didn't have any particular knowledge of the circuit,” said Pagiaro. “Being so quick after just some hours together was amazing, especially considering that we used just one set of new tyres. I'd also like to say thanks to Auto GP, because at high level it's the only series that allows the teams to do some free testing, letting them free to manage a quota of 1000 kms per car. It creates some good opportunities for both teams and drivers.”
At Durango, Cipriani did much of the running on the second day, improving his time to 1m24.1. Venturini was given half an hour at the end of the day to show what he could do, and matched his time from Monday of 1m23.1.
“Auto GP is really a great car, the most impressive I've ever driven,” said Venturini. “It's staggeringly quick and at the same time it's very demanding, a real race car. Overall it's also much more fun to drive compared to the other cars I've tried, and that's also good. In two days I did only 50 laps but I had an immediate feeling, posting good times quickly. The engine was amazing but I was expecting that, I was more surprised by the braking, I wasn't expecting that much power from steel discs.”