The RP Motorsport team took to the track at Magny-Cours in France on Tuesday 15th February, as it began preparations for the 2011 Auto GP season.
The team was making use of the 1000 kilometres of free testing allowed by series organisers, prior to the first collective testing session at Barcelona on March 23-24.
Luca Filippi and Kevin Ceccon were behind the wheel for the team. Despite rain during the morning that caused wet conditions for half of the day, the team completed nearly 350 km of running. Former GP2 race winner Filippi, who raced in Auto GP during 2010, posted the fastest time of 1m28.5. This shaved 0.2 seconds off Filippi's own best time from free practice at the 2010 round at Magny-Cours.
17-year-old Ceccon is aiming to move into Auto GP for 2011 after finishing fourth in the European F3 Open last year. He set a quickest lap time of 1m29.3, just eight tenths off Filippi's best effort.
Team Manager Fabio Pampado was delighted with how useful the test had been to the team. “This test for us was a good opportunity to make good use of the information we gathered in 2010, that basically was a learning year for us. In France we worked both with wet and dry conditions, and it was the best test we ever had with the Auto GP cars.
“I was happy to see that the hard work we did is starting to pay dividends, and I also want to say thanks to the drivers. Luca Filippi's experience was a priceless help as he gave us a lot of useful feedback on the car's behaviour, and Ceccon was very professional in his approach, following all our advices and improving steadily and quickly, confirming that he has a very good potential.”
Filippi was pleased with the pace he was able to show the team. “We had a really good test, and the laptime we achieved was pretty impressive, especially if you consider that the track wasn't clean and that the rain erased any trace of rubber,” he said.
“The team did a good job, and I was happy to see that I was immediately on the pace; the feeling was great from the very first laps, and even if I know that my 'relationship' with this car is special yesterday I realized that even if the championship was starting tomorrow, I would be ready. That's undoubtedly good news.”
Ceccon was happy with how his debut Auto GP experience had gone. “Before the test I was very curious, and I have to say that I was really impressed by the Auto GP car,” he said. “Debuting on such a beast with a wet track is not easy, and I was very cautious at the beginning. Then, as the tarmac was drying-up, I got more and more confidence and I was able to push harder.
“The car is incredible both under acceleration and braking, and it's very close to the GP2 I tried in Abu Dhabi, frankly much more than I expected. Having Luca as a team mate today was great, he showed me that there was more to come from the car and he also gave me some good advices, I really appreciated that. I also discovered that the winter training I did with Formula Medicine was perfect, and now I look forward to the next testing opportunity and the races.”