Formula Renault 3.5

Recap: Fortec Motorsports Excel in Jerez

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The two Fortec Motorsports drivers of Oliver Rowland and Sergey Sirotkin ended the final Formula Renault 3.5 series pre-season test on the top of the timing screens.  Their laps, set on the second day of the test in Jerez, saw them lead ahead of Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly of Arden Motorsport.

Over the past two seasons, Fortec Motorsport have employed Robin Frijns and Stoffel Vandoorne straight from the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series, and it seems they have lucked in again by signing Rowland.  The British driver steps up from 2.0 having been runner-up in 2013 driving for Manor MP Motorsport.

ISR driver Jazeman Jaafar ended the test in fourth, the Malaysian driver finishing just ahead of Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr of DAMS.  Sainz had been fastest in the first test of the season at Aragon last month.  Brazilian Pietro Fantin, quickest overall on the final day, saw his best lap of the test put him sixth fastest overall.

The second DAMS car of Norman Nato ended up seventh, the Frenchman’s time just quick enough to pip Lotus driver Marlon Stockinger and Comtec Racing’s lone tester Nikolay Martsenko. The top driver yet to be confirmed for 2014 was Nigel Melker in tenth.  He tested for the first two days for ISR.

Roberto Merhi was the next best-unconfirmed driver at the test, the Spaniard ending up 14th for Zeta Corse, his best lap coming on the final day in Jerez.  The other Zeta car of Russian driver Roman Mavlanov was 23rd. Dutchman Meindert van Buuren was nineteenth for Pons Racing, who have yet to confirm either driver for the 2014 season.  In the other car, Pons gave seat time to both Romanian Robert Visoiu and Cypriot Tio Ellinas.  Visoiu had mechanical issues on his day in the car, while Ellinas ran the final day with Pons having tested for Tech 1 Racing on the first two days.

“I had to get to grips with a new car, new tyres – everything was new,” said Ellinas to the official WSR website.  The Cypriot driver won races in GP3 for Marussia Manor Racing in 2013.  “It is one of the best cars I have ever driven. You can release the brakes earlier and there is a lot more downforce than on any other car I have ever driven. You can carry so much more speed into the corners… It was a bit tricky adapting my driving style whilst also getting used to two different settings, but now we’ll see if my results are enough to secure me a programme for this year.”

A driver who was confirmed mid-way through the final day of the test was Beitske Visser, the Dutch woman ended the test 22nd fastest for AVF.

“Compared with last year, it’s a big step up,” admitted Visser.  “The Formula Renault 3.5 is five times more powerful; there is a lot more downforce and therefore a lot more to learn. Physically, it’s still a bit difficult, but I’m working hard with the engineers to understand the car and improve each day. There’s still plenty of room for improvement!”

The season begins April 12th-13th at Monza in Italy.  Expect a few more driver announcements before then!

Jerez Overall Pre-season Test Times

1 Oliver Rowland GBR Fortec Motorsports 1:25.396
2 Sergey Sirotkin RUS Fortec Motorsports 1:25.491
3 Pierre Gasly FRA Arden Motorsport 1:25.527
4 Jazeman Jaafar MAL ISR 1:25.544
5 Carlos Sainz Jr ESP DAMS 1:25.701
6 Pietro Fantin BRZ International Draco Racing 1:25.818
7 Norman Nato FRA DAMS 1:25.834
8 Marlon Stockinger PHI Lotus 1:25.862
9 Nikolay Martsenko RUS Comtec Racing 1:25.865
10 Nigel Melker NED ISR 1:25.948
11 Zoel Amberg SWI AVF 1:25.961
12 Marco Sorensen DEN Tech 1 Racing 1:26.031
13 Will Stevens GBR Strakka Racing 1:26.139
14 Roberto Merhi ESP Zeta Corse 1:26.163
15 Matias Laine FIN Strakka Racing 1:26.198
16 William Buller GBR Arden Motorsport 1:26.269
17 Luca Ghiotto ITA International Draco Racing 1:26.272
18 Matthieu Vaxiviere FRA Lotus 1:26.335
19 Meindert van Buuren NED Pons Racing 1:26.401
20 Tio Ellinas CYP Pons Racing 1:26.526
21 Tio Ellinas CYP Tech 1 Racing 1:26.725
22 Beitske Visser NED AVF 1:26.924
23 Roman Mavlanov RUS Zeta Corse 1:27.097
24 Robert Visoiu ROM Pons Racing 1:29.115
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