The ten teams participating in this year’s GP3 championship took to the track at Paul Ricard yesterday for their first day of testing.
Five Brits were present – and the names of two of them will be familiar to anyone has been following the GP2 series over the last year or two.
Barwa Addax/Ocean Racing GP2 driver Max Chilton returned to his old British F3 team Carlin for the test. Since he drove for the Hampshire-based squad, and moved on to GP2, his father has made a substantial investment in it.
Meanwhile James Jakes, a veteran of GP2 Asia who has driven for Super Nova, was present in the Manor Racing car. Both he and the team hail from Yorkshire and they have formerly paired up in Formula Three Euro Series.
And Alexander Sims, who is currently contesting the F3 Euro Series with ART, and who is on Renault owner Gravity’s racing academy programme with the aim of reaching Formula One, drove for Atech.
While the more experienced drivers were most likely helping teams benchmark the cars, and are not necessarily in line to appear on the GP3 starting grid, some young hopefuls were testing with a different agenda.
The 2005 World Karting Champion Oliver Oakes was aiming to impress with Addax while Formula Renault graduate Dean Stoneman was testing for the Tech 1 Racing squad. He has previously tested Renault World Series cars for the team.
During the tests 1,324 laps were completed, demonstrating what organisers called “impressive reliability” and covering more than 3,000 miles.
Fastest driver of the day was ART’s Esteban Gutierrez who posted a time of 1:20.949 – more than one second quicker than the fastest driver in the morning session. Michael Christensen at MW Arden and Pablo Sanchez Lopez at Addax Team completed the top three.
Didier Perrin, GP3 Technical Director, said: “It is inevitable to get a bit nervous before the first test day of a new series. However, after the first hour today I was already quite pleased with the way things were going, especially when each of the teams had at least one or two cars on track so quickly into the session.
“Plus, I saw at least six of the young drivers fighting for on track position and overtaking each other in the very first laps of the series history – this is something I had never seen before!
“The preparations were excellent and all the teams were ready as soon as the pitlane opened. The feedback they gave me was that the drivers all really enjoyed driving the car and felt that it was quick with a very high level of grip.
“Despite some natural glitches that were expected, the overall reliability of the cars has been outstanding, and we are very satisfied with this.”
For a full list of session times plus further testing information, visit the new GP3 series website here.