Josh Hill (Fortec Motorsport) went fastest today at Norfolk’s Snetterton circuit as a vast field of 32 cars, the largest in the series’ history completed the final of three day’s testing prior to the start of the Protyre Formula Renault 2.0 Finals. Sixteen nations will be represented including some of Europe’s leading teams.
In a day of ever changing weather conditions, it was little surprise to see CERTINA Formula Renault 2.0 UK championship drivers Hill, Jordan King (Manor Motorsport), and Oliver Rowland (Fortec Competition) regularly heading the timing screens.
Fortec’s Hill had a strong day, finishing top of the times in session two and three, and fastest overall for the test following a switch from Manor Competition to replace Spanish driver, Rafaele Danieli.
“It’s been a good day,” said Hill. “We were looking quick in the first session but didn’t get many laps in due to all the red flags. We ended quickest which was encouraging, and then carried that through to the next two sessions. I’m a little annoyed that we didn’t get out on new tyres; I did the 1:47 on an old set. We went for new tyres but the final red flag fell just as I was out on my warm-up lap.
“The field is really competitive, with Koiranen’s squad and Kvyat, I’ve got a quick team-mate in Oli and Jordan [King] will certainly be very quick. I’m looking for my first pole and win this weekend.”
Red flags and wet weather caused havoc during the first test session on the ‘300’ circuit. Successful European team, Koiranen Bros Motorsport’s driver Daniil Kvyat was languishing in seventeenth place in the morning, but the Red Bull backed Russian eventually finished the day second fastest overall.
“I’m really enjoying the 300 circuit,” said Kvyat. “I was here last year in the Winter Series where I finished 4th overall, and there are more corners and more challenges; it’s really interesting.
“I’m looking forward to the weekend, I don’t mind if it’s wet or dry – for good drivers it doesn’t matter. There are lots of good experienced drivers, so it should be a good battle.”
2011 Formula Renault UK runner-up and 2011 Graduate Cup champion, Rowland proved to be one of Hill’s biggest challenger, maintaining a top three position all day. Fortec stable-mates Felix Serralles, Ed Jones and Thomas Jaeger improved as the track dried out.
Several drivers including Manor Competition’s King, fresh off his MRF Championship win at the Buddh International Circuit in India last weekend, were caught up in the foray of red flags whilst trying to settheir fastest times in the final session.
“The morning was quite wet and it was very good to finish fastest,” said King. The second session was a bit disappointing, we knew we had the speed but we made some changes, which didn’t improve the times.
“We know the speed is very good, I just need to get a few clear laps in for qualifying. This weekend I’m really hoping I can build on the strong [MRF] win and keep up the momentum.”
Another of Manor Competition’s trio, Formula Renault BARC graduate Hector Hurst, improved steadily over the course of the day as he continued to break in his new machinery.
Atech Reid GP’s Dan Wells showed promising pace early in the day with three top-ten times, and a stand-out fourth in the first session. Team-mates Geoff Uhrhane, a recent Formula Ford UK graduate, ran to outright fifth, and new to the UK from the USA, Ethan Ringel was a few seconds further back on his maiden drive in Formula Renault 2.0 machinery.
Josh Webster enjoyed a positive debut in his Mark Burdett Motorsport engineered car; the 2011 BARC Formula Renault championship runner-up finished fourth overall, only three tenths off Hill’s fastest time of the day, a 1:47.770.
Koiranen, running six cars this weekend suffered mix fortunes. German charger, Stefan Wackerbauer hit a barrier in the third session, prematurely ending his afternoon and causing one of the day’s several red flags.
With a host of European competitors in action this weekend, it was Interwetten’s British driver Melvin McKee who provided food for thought for the British contingent with Koiranen, running as high as eleventh in the second session.
Dutch team Van Amersfoort Racing were also in attendance with a pair of Formula Renaults; young Brazilian karter Joao Sergio Camara, and team-mate Dennis Van de Laar in his fabulous Discovery Channel liveried car, both threatened the top ten at the end of the day.
With many of the young drivers experiencing new machinery, several were also driving the ‘300’ layout for the first time, with the new layout only coming into operation earlier this year.
The BARC Formula Renault class produced a fiercely contested battle between MGR Motorsport’s James Fletcher and Fortec Motorsport’s Archie Hamilton.
“We knew we were quick from the times we had from Wednesday and Thursday, we had thespeed,” reflected Hamilton. “An incident in the first session meant it put me out for the remainder, in the second I had a brake issue and sat out the session. The brake issues were solved and in the last session I managed to get a few clear laps even with a lot of traffic out there.
“It’s quite tricky to manage the gap with the 2.0 cars when they’re coming to pass without compromising your own lap. I’m confident of pole and a first win tomorrow but I know James [Fletcher] will push me all the way.”
As itunfolded, Hamilton pipped Fletcher, the Formula Jedi series runner up, by just under a second, promising an enticing battle for the weekend’s races.Hillspeed’s Victor Jiminez and Antel Motorsport’s young Russian Ivan Taranov both improved with each of the day’s session.
“I’m happy that we went really well today,” said Fletcher. “The car is going really well, I’d prefer a wet race weekend but I’m looking forward to whatever the weather. I don’t know many of the other drivers as I’ve come from Formula Jedi, but I am looking to do the full Formula Renault season in 2012 and am looking for sponsors. A strong finish in the Finals Series should help.”
As the day continued the weather improved and by the final session all teams were on slicks. With drivers improving their times and gaining more confidence, the day finished with the top nine drivers all within one second.
Friday’s top ten times:
1. Josh Hill GBR Fortec Motorsports 1:47.779
2. Daniil Kvyat RUS Koiranen Bros Motorsport 1:48.016
3. Oliver Rowland GBR Fortec Competition 1:48.060
4. Josh Webster GBR Mark Burdett Motorsport 1:48.091
5. Geoff Uhrhane AUS Atech Reid GP 1:48.460
6. Ed Jones UAE Fortec Competition 1:48.531
7. Thomas Jaeger AUT Fortec Competition 1:48.570
8. Dan Wells GBR Atech Reid GP 1:48.691
9. Felix Serralles PUR Fortec Competition 1:48.741
10. Ocon Esteban FRA Koiranen Bros Motorsport 1:48.937
Friday’s top three BARC times:
1. Archie Hamilton GBR Fortec Motorsport 1:54.014
2. James Fletcher GBR MGR Motorsport 1:54.974
3. Victor Jiminez ESP Hillspeed 1:56.013