With just two days to go before the start of the season, many woke up to the news that the field had changed once again. So while the fans were getting used to the new names, Nicolai Kjaergaard laid down the precedent before the start of the year.
Coming into the weekend, a clear championship favourite was yet to be established. While a few names had been touted prior to testing, Media Day and Spa-Francorchamps left the predictions in the air. One the names that had been lauded was Kjaergaard, with the Dane ending Thursday testing at Oulton Park, two tenths in front of his nearest rival.
That’s hardly to say he dominated though, with three different drivers topping the four sessions. Kjaergaard’s time of 1min 30.774 ensured he was the only driver below the 1min 31sec barrier all day with Jordan Cane coming home in second. The British F3 race winner was quick to adapt to a car he hadn’t driven all winter, even topping the third session.
Linus Lundqvist took third with many predicting a Scandinavian battle between Kjaergaard and himself throughout the season. The Swede topped the final practice session ahead of the Dane, while Clement Novalak who was confirmed with Carlin today, finished fourth.
Despite some unusual names towards the top of the timing screens early on, the order eventually settled into an expected order, with Media Day pace setter, Kush Maini in fifth. The result was comparatively poor compared to what we’ve come to expect from the Indian as he looks to challenge for the title. He wasn’t the only Indian performing though, with Krishnaraaj Mahadik picking up eighth overall.
Splitting the Indians would be two British drivers. Tom Gamble ended the day in sixth, a mere three hundredths of a second in front of Billy Monger as he looks towards his first competitive single-seater weekend since his Donington accident last year.
Rounding out the top ten would be Jamie Chadwick, who didn’t make it out of the garage in the final session and Manuel Maldonado who had topped the opening hour, but failed to improve as the day went on.
Novalak and Cane Join Grid
In a peice of news the community has known about for months, Clement Novalak was officially added to the Carlin team, becoming the grids nineteenth driver. Novalak has been testing with the team all winter and his expectation to race with Carlin led to the MSV giving them special permission to run four cars with Monger.
Novalak will not compete all season though with the Brit focusing on a campaign in Eurocup Formula Renault. Making his step up from Karting this year, he recently finished fifth in the Toyota Racing Series, beating BRDC F3 runner-up James Pull.
One of Novalak’s Eurocup rivals this year will be Jordan Cane. Last years rookie and race winner was preparing for a full assault in Europe, though has been called up by Douglas Motorsport last-minute to replace Alexandra Mohnhaupt after an accident at Spa testing last week means she will be unfit to compete in the opening round.
Cane’s pedigree and immediate performance in testing means that he will a likely race winner and will almost certainly disrupt the new guard at the front of the pack. Prior to 2017, Cane had raced Formula Ford’s in America.