Red Bull Junior driver Daniil Kvyat (Koiranen Bros Motorsport) went fastest today at Northampton’s Rockingham circuit as a vast field of 32 cars completed the last day’s testing prior to the final rounds of the Protyre Formula Renault 2.0 Finals Series.
On a chilly day with visibility slowly decreasing, the European powerhouse visitors began to rise to the top of the time sheets with last weekend’s double pole-man Josh Hill (Fortec Motorsport), second placed Series sitter Dan Wells (Atech Reid GP), team mate Geoff Uhrhane and OliverRowland (Fortec Competition) regularly switching places at the head of the timing screens with the visiting drivers from Koiranen Bros and Interwetten.
Best of the European teams was Russian rocket Kvyat, who, after a disappointing finish to Rounds 3 & 4 at Snetterton last weekend jumped out of the blocks showing that he means business for the final Series rounds. Setting a fastest time of 1:15.009 this morning, his time was unbeaten for the remainder of the three sessions.
Red flags and foggy weather caused some disruptions during the three test sessions on the 1.94 mile International Super Sportscar circuit. Austrian based Formula Renault Eurocup team, Interwetten Racing, had a strong performance by British driver Melville McKee in session 1, finishing in third and overall fifth for the day.
Fortec’s Hill had a solid day, finishing top of the times in session two, and for session three it was another Josh – Josh Webster (Mark Burdett Motorsport) who jumped to the top after managing to find some clear air at the end of the session. Webster explains, “We thought we’d missed the window but we put new slicks on and there was a short time at the end of the session where the track was a little drier. We had two laps and managed to get it all together and went fastest which was great for us to end on.”
The afternoon session was starting to become overtakenwith fog and midway through the session light drizzle began falling and continued to hamper the drivers. A procession of red flags followed as drivers pushed to set their final times for the day, resulting in several teams deciding to abandon the remainder of the session or concentrate on bedding in tyres.
Protyre Finals Series points leader and 2011 Formula Renault UK runner-up, Oliver Rowland (Fortec Competition) had a quiet day setting the seventh overall fastest time, as he concentrated on set-up and a consistent finish to his Series campaign. “We used old tyres in the first two sessions and in the last session changed to new slicks but the track changed and I was caught out by red flags.” Unflustered by his seventh placing in the times, Rowland continued, “the car feels great, we’ll make a couple more improvements overnight but I’m not worried.”
Rowland’s closest opponent in the points, Atech Reid GP’s Dan Wells had a consistent day towards the top of the times, completing a high number of laps throughout the day. “Wednesday and Thursday were two difficult days for us [exclusive testing] but the team and I have worked hard on the set up of the car and it’s come good today,” said Wells. It has been a bit hit and miss with the traffic but everyone has been affected by it. I think we’ll be quick tomorrow and I’ll be searching for my first pole position, but the weather will make it interesting.”
The BARC Formula Renault class again produced a fiercely contested battle between MGR Motorsport’s James Fletcher and Fortec Motorsport’s Archie Hamilton, with Fletcher topping the times by just under three tenths.
“We had a small engine issue so didn’t really run in the last session, but that’s now fixed. It’s been a good day although the traffic was difficult,” said Fletcher.
Fletcher’s main rival in the times was Fortec’s Hamilton, who reflected on his tumultuous day.
“We only used new tyres in session three today, and sat out most of session two because of anincident on track which left me with a damaged car, but we’re very positive with the times that have been set,” said Hamilton. We were comfortably quick in the last session but we stopped towards the end due to the wet conditions. Quali should be good.”
Hillspeed’s speedy Victor Jiminez continued his consistent run in the top three of the times, finishing the day just behind Hamilton. “It’s only my second time at this circuit, and I’m feeling very happy. I think I can get good results again and am aiming to go one better in the race,” he enthused. Interestingly the Spaniard continued, “I don’t mind the weather in England, the rain is not a problem. The wetter the better!”
On what Kvyat describes as “a good track for learning”, two of the top 5 drivers from today have never raced here before, including the Red Bull Junior driver. Another who has surprisingly not raced here before is Brit Melville McKee (Interwetten Racing) who after struggling for pace at Snetterton has worked hard with the team to walk away from today with overall fifth.
“Last weekend was a bit of a struggle; this morning was good but we couldn’t get a clear lap. With so many  cars out and many red flags I couldn’t get the heat into the tyres that I needed. The car feels good though and the team has done a great job. I’ve never raced here before so it’s new turf for me,” McKee noted after testing had ended.
Tomorrow’s qualifying is split into two 20 minute sessions, with the Formula Renault BARC spec cars out first at 09:30, followed by the Formula Renault 2.0 cars at 10:00.
With the combined test times resulting in the top 13 drivers being less than 1 second apart, qualifying is due to be a heated battle.
Friday’s top ten times:
1. Daniil Kvyat RUS Koiranen Bros 1:15.009
2. Josh Hill GBR Fortec Motorsport 1:15.451
3. Josh Webster GBR Mark Burdett Motorsport 1:15.506
4. Dan Wells GBR Atech Reid GP 1:15.564
5. Melville McKee GBR Interwetten Racing 1:15.591
6. Jake Dennis GBR Fortec Motorsport 1:15.718
7. Oliver Rowland GBR Fortec Competition 1:15.766
8. Hans Villemi SWE Koiranen Bros 1:15.857
9. John Bryant-Meisner Koiranen Bros 1:15.872
10. Stefan Wackerbauer Koiranen Bros 1:15.877
Friday’s top three BARC times:
1. James Fletcher GBR MGR Motorsport 1:18.454
2. Archie Hamilton GBR Fortec Motorsport 1:18.749
3. Victor Jiminez ESP Hillspeed 1:19.298
Championship Points After Race Four:
Formula Renault 2.0 Class
Rowland 128, Wells 90, Webster 86, Kvyat 72, Hill 53, King 51, Serralies, 50, Jaeger 46, McBride 43.
Formula Renault BARC Class
Hamilton 128, Jiminez 106, Walkinshaw, 88, Malhotra 80, Kibbler 72, Fletcher 64, Taranov, 50.