Walker leads first Valencia WSR test

P1 Motorsport's James Walker was fastest in the opening session of the second Formula Renault 3.5 test at Valencia

Walker leads first Valencia WSR test

Despite professing not to enjoy the twisty Ricardo Torno circuit, the Jersey driver set a 1m22.862s on new rubber and was a full 0.7 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger, local driver Miguel Molina.

With drivers limited to an allocation of three sets of tyres per car for each test, the teams have been careful to ration their supplies. Having skipped the final session of last Wednesday's test at Jerez, Walker was able to reap the benefits of having an extra set of Michelins in hand.

"The car is still really strong in the high speed corners, (even with the revised for 2009 aerodynamic package)," said Walker. "The mechanical grip is good and we're already able to go faster in the quick left-hand Turn 1 than last year.

"Straight out of the pits we were quite fast today, even when we were on old tyres and hitting the rev limiter half-way down the pit straight. On new tyres you can really feel the difference they make on the infield between Turns 3 and 5."

German Tobias Hegewald was third fastest for Interwetten Racing, and the only other driver under the 1m24s bracket. The former Formula Renault front-runner was using the test as an opportunity to learn the circuit ahead of the opening round of his Formula 2 campaign, and does not have any plans to contest the series.

As Interwetten was absent from last week's Jerez test, Hegewald was able to join Walker and Epsilon Euskadi's Adrian Valles in running new tyres.

Pons Racing's Marcos Martinez was fastest initially on a 1m24.122s. Despite improving marginally, the Spaniard was bumped down to fourth on the timesheets. Mofaz Fortec's Fairuz Fauzy and Frenchman Charles Pic completed the top six, but oil on the track at the climax of the session meant it was difficult to read much into the times.

Reigning British Formula 3 champion Jamie Alguersuari finished ahead of his Carlin team-mate Oliver Turvey in seventh. The flanks of Alguersuari's Carlin machine are sporting the signs of heavily increased support from Spanish oil company Repsol, which is set to reduce its expenditure in GP2.

The session was red-flagged after an hour when Edoardo Piscopo locked a wheel approaching the tight, second gear, Turn 2 and found the gravel. The Italian is one of a number of drivers still to be confirmed for the season.

"I want to be here in World Series with Prema, but we're still finalising the last details of the budget," said Piscopo. "I have finished my time in F3, and with GP2 being too expensive, this is the best professional championship to go to."

2008 Formula Master champion Chris van der Drift was having his second outing with Epsilon Euskadi, but like Piscopo has yet to be confirmed in the seat.

"Until now I didn't have (a drive) organised," said van der Drift, "but my manager is here and I hope we are pretty close to doing the deal. Epsilon Euskadi have been great, although we've still not agreed everything, and it is not 100 per cent that we will be testing in Barcelona.

"This morning we didn't run any decent tyres and we were slowed at the end by the oil that was dropped."

RC Motorsport, which was fastest at Valencia last November with F2 driver Andy Soucek, and Kurt Mollekens' Belgian KTR team, have elected not to travel to Spain. Comtec, however, was back up to full strength after being reunited with its French driver Alex Marsoin, who sat out the first test of the year at Jerez.

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