Spanish GP2 outfit Racing Engineering have completed a successful 3 day testing programme at the French track, Paul Ricard.
Day 1: 3D configuration
The French circuit used 3 different configurations for the 3 day test, a new configuration each day. Day one saw the 3D configuration used, and the first session saw little on track action for the first part, as the track was still wet from the previous day's rain.
Both drivers, Spaniard Dani Clos and German Christian Vietoris managed a few laps during the morning, but their objective of learning the track configuration and the car was completed.
The drivers finished the morning session in fifth and eighth places overall.
The afternoon session saw the drivers improve dramatically, with both the teams' drivers occupying the top 2 positions in the times, firstly Clos before Vietoris. The pair held on to the top spots until the final half hour, when the times started to constantly change and at the end, Pastor Maldonado topped the times.
Clos had a slight technical issue during the early stages of the session, ended up being stuck in traffic so wasn't able to improve his best lap time, a 1m13.301s, a time which left him ninth overall. Meanwhile, Vietoris, in his maiden test with the team finished up an encouraging sixth, a tenth of a second faster than Clos, having set a best time of 1m13.203s. Traffic on his final run meant that he was unable to better his 1m13.203s lap.
Both drivers had a successful and productive day's testing, with Clos working on set up's and improvements over lap times, while Vietoris worked on set up and getting to know his new team.
Speaking after day 1 of 3, Clos said: “The morning started with bad weather. As it was raining, we decided to stay in the pits for quite some time and we only made some laps to see, that everything was fine and there was no problem on the car. These few laps were mainly there to have all new parts adapt to the car. Towards the end of the session the track dried up a bit and quite some drivers had slick tyres mounted. We didn't want to waste our tyres and have decided to keep them for later. In the afternoon, we waited a bit for the track to warm up. It was a good test, the car was in front and we were first. But our target here is to work. We know we have a good base and what we need is to work from there. Everyone is very close and I am very happy as we have improved the car and our goal was not a lap time.”
Vietoris reflected on his first day with his new team: “This was my first time with the GP2 car in wet conditions, so I needed to get used to it. Luckily, I quickly managed to find the rhythm and was within the top three all the time. In the afternoon, the track dried up and I was quickly setting the fastest time. I was really happy with the team and the car. Everything was very nice, just as expected. Towards the end of the afternoon session it got quite hectic on the track and I am sure I could have improved my lap time, but I encountered too much traffic. So, I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
Day 2: 2A Configuration
The second day of the 3 days testing at Paul Ricard welcomed the teams with a new configuration, one which meant the team worked on aerodynamic set ups, as the configuration included a couple of long straights.
The team, for the second day running were using the medium compound Bridgestone tyre.
The morning session saw the Racing Engineering car of Clos top the time sheets, with team mate Vietoris the fifth fastest driver. The morning session performances backed up the potential shown by the drivers during the opening day's testing, even if the times couldn't be compared due to the completely different configurations.
The afternoon session backed up the morning sessions pace, as Clos closed the second day in a very promising second position, while a technical glitch causing him to sit out some of the session. Even with the problem, Vietoris was still able to set some impressive times and had topped the session early on.
For Clos, he was top of the times until the final 20 minutes of the day, when Maldonado beat his best time, Clos also managed to improve his best effort to end the day with a best time of 1m09.876s, just over a tenth off the fastest time of Maldonado.
Both drivers were able to continue their set up and evaluation work, something which pleased the president of Racing Engineering, Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon: “Things went very well today; it was a very positive day of testing. Good job Dani! First in the morning and second in the afternoon; shows that we are working in the right direction. It’s a pity Christian could not run at the end of the afternoon session, but he was running in strong positions during the rest of the day, so I am confident he will be back at the top tomorrow. Our mechanics did a good job as well. We are all looking forward to tomorrow and hope to see both our boys on the top again.”
Clos said after day 2: “Today was a very positive day, not only because of the results, but the work we have done. From the very beginning we tried different things and found solutions. We have gained some positive conclusions. I am happy with the work done by the boys, we had no technical issues. I also get along really well with my engineer, which is essential. Therefore, I am happy and things get better all the time. We hope to get some more interesting insights for the test in Barcelona and the races.”
Vietoris reflects on his second day of testing: “It went well in the morning. I was always within the top three. When mounting the new set of tyres, I could not really take advantage of them as I encountered some traffic on the track. In the afternoon we had a problem with the fuel pressure and I wasn’t driving anymore after. Until then I was quite fast and within the top five. I think we are generally there and if tomorrow we manage to get a clean lap and trouble free run, we should be on top. We definitely have the speed.”
Day 3: 2D Short Configuration
The final day of the 3 day Paul Ricard test saw the teams using a short track configuration and the soft compound of Bridgestone tyre, instead of the medium compound of the opening 2 days.
The final morning saw the circuit start off with some light rain, meaning that neither Vietoris nor Clos were able to get their soft Bridgestone tyres up to their optimum working temperature, even when the track had become fully dry.
Soon, however, the cars were setting competitive lap times round the third different configuration in 3 days, and when the chequered flag came out to signal the end of the penultimate session, GP2 rookie Vietoris had finished third with Clos sixth fastest.
The final session of the 3 day test; saw the teams hit with the threat of more rain. Clos used the session to carry on his preparation before the opening round of the season, and this session also included a spell of pit stops during the final half hour.
For Vietoris, the final session gave him time to carry on learning the car and working on set ups, as well as learning how the team work, to give him the best preparation ahead of his debut season of GP2 action. Both drivers were extremely active during the day, Clos completed 90 laps during the day, Vietoris completed 88 laps.
The teams Sporting Director, Thomas Couyotopoulo, said about the final day's activities and the test in general: “We worked on different configurations today and things went quite well. We didn't go for a fast lap in the afternoon, so our drivers set their fastest times in this session quite early on. The ultimate goal was not performance, but the preparation of the season and we therefore finished the day with intense pit stop training. We had three positive and productive days at Paul Ricard and gained a lot of data, which we have to analyze now before heading towards the test in Barcelona.”
Clos commented on the final days running at Paul Ricard: “We can look back onto some very positive test days, for the team as well as for me. We have gained very positive insights, which we will apply to the car for the test in Barcelona. I am very optimistic regarding those test days there and also the upcoming races. However, we still have some work to do, but start from a good base.”
Vietoris had this to say about the day's running: “Today was a good day of testing again. We started on a set of tyres from yesterday and quickly improved the time in the morning. We found some good solutions and improved the car to better suit my driving style. I am feeling more and more confident with the car. We need to still get some work done, but we are on a good way. I am happy so far.”
The team will next test at Barcelona over the 7th-9th April, ahead of the opening rounds of the GP2 Main Series Season at the same track, alongside the first European round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, a Month later, on the 8th and 9th May.