|All the teams competing in the 2011 GP2 Asia Series arrived at Abu Dhabi for four days of intensive testing with the new Dallara-designed GP2 chassis. Using two different configurations of the Yas Marina circuit Spain’s Racing Engineering team quickly began setting some of the fastest times as their number one driver in the GP2 Asia series, Dani Clos, became familiar with the new car and its Pirelli tyres.
Day 1 saw the teams take to a track made dusty by a sand storm that had struck the circuit the day before and the drivers only completed a handful of laps as the asphalt was too slippery for any real lessons to be learned. Despite this, both Racing Engineering drivers were amongst the fastest runners with Nathanaël finishing fifth and Dani Clos sixth. The afternoon session was extended by an hour to make up for the lack of track time in the morning and both drivers continued to get used to the new car with Nathanaël Berthon the faster of the two although, due to the fact that the track was still slippery, Dani Clos and the Racing Engineering team decided to concentrate on working on the aerodynamic set-up of the car and no attempt was made to set a quick time.
Day 2’s morning session was delayed an hour by fog and once the drivers took to the track both Clos and Berthon were soon on the pace and, although the session had to be red-flagged three times, both drivers finished in the top ten less than a second away from the fastest time. The afternoon session was stopped 15 minutes early due to an accident meaning that most drivers missed out on running new tyres at the end to set a good time. Despite this setback Dani Clos was once again in the top ten only 0.9 seconds away from the fastest time.
Day 3 saw a new shorter configuration for the Yas Marina track in use and it will be this layout that will be the setting for Thursday’s opening round of the 2011 Asia GP series. The work carried out by Racing Engineering proved to have paid off when Dani Clos set the third fastest time in a very competitive session that saw the top ten drivers separated by less than a second. Nathanaël Berthon continued to learn about GP2 racing and showed he was progressing well as he set a time only 0.8 seconds away from Clos. In the afternoon Clos was once again amongst the best as he was just 0.2 seconds away from the fastest time in fifth.
Day 4 saw the shorter circuit in use again and as before the times were incredibly close with less than 0.7 seconds between first and tenth fastest. Once again Dani Clos was in the top ten with 8th fastest time, half a second behind the fastest driver. In the afternoon most of the teams went for a race simulation, for almost two hours Dani Clos held the fastest time and, after competing 38 laps the second highest achieved, the young Spaniard was once again in the top ten.
The four days of testing has shown that it looks as if the 2011 GP2 Asia series will be very competitive with seven different drivers taking the fastest time in the eight test sessions and in every session the times were incredibly close throughout the field. Most importantly the Racing Engineering team were continuously amongst the fastest runners and it is clear that Dani Clos will be one of the favourites for victory come race day. Nathanaël Berthon has been consistently quick as he came to terms with competing amongst some of the quickest drivers in the world outside of Formula 1. Most importantly Racing Engineering has learnt a lot about the new Dallara and both the team and its two drivers are sure there is more to come.
Dani Clos: "I think during this test we covered a lot of different aspects of the car. Our first two days were very much a case of confirming basic parameters before we could begin to try understanding the new Pirelli tyres, which took some time. I am not where I want to be with the car just yet, but it is coming better with every run. The tyres have very different behaviour and wear characteristics to last year’s tyres and this is not something you can understand immediately, it takes time. I think we have a reasonable base for the start of the championship and I am sure we will add to the knowledge over the first race weekend. We have a lot of data to review and from that we can decide where to start the first race weekend. It’s nice to know that we still have more performance to come as we understand the car better. I think we have covered a lot of laps over the test and this is a credit to the mechanics and the Racing Engineering’s winter preparation."
Nathanaël Berthon: "I am really happy and it’s good to drive this car. It is a fantastic car and I really like the grip. But it is difficult for me as a rookie as there are many things completely different from what I knew so far. I have to kind of learn a different driving style as I am not used to the high speed carried into the corners. It’s a big change from a World Series car to GP2 and I do not have experience in F3, which would be similar to drive. But I am working hard to improve and I know where I can make up time. I know where I have to and can improve and I am looking forward to the race weekend. I will fight and give everything to get the best possible results."
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Team Manager Racing Engineering: "These four days of testing with the new GP2 car have been very intense, challenging and interesting. We knew before that some major factors, such as the aerodynamics and tyres, would change the GP2 concept and we wanted to obtain as much information as possible during these days. Following our test program, we intentionally simulated different sessions and set-ups in order to study and optimize the functioning of the new car. As in the past, the level of drivers and teams is very high in GP2 and I am pleased to have seen Dani in the top 10 in each session, except during one session, when we did specific aero work. Nathanaël is new in GP2 and it is only normal he needs some time to adapt and least all different aspects of the championship. He improved during these four days and I am sure he will enjoy racing in GP2, especially with a team mate like Dani on his side. I would also like to thank the entire team as everyone has really worked very hard this week. We will continue to work hard to be in the best possible position for the first race weekend."