Jakob Ebrey

Antel Motorsport’s latest signing Dino Zamparelli got his 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC campaign off to the best possible start by topping the timesheets in the first of two official pre-season test days held at North Yorkshire’s Croft circuit on Tuesday, 8th March.

The 18-year-old from Bristol, returning to the one-make series, laid down a best time of 1min 19.463s (96.27mph average) around the 2.1250-mile circuit which forms the venue for rounds seven and eight of the Championship. 

Running a mere 0.076s quicker than his nearest rival – fellow returnee Archie Hamilton – Zamparelli set his best time in the final of three 55-minute sessions using fresh Michelin rubber.

Nineteen-year-old Hamilton from Hook, now running with Fortec Motorsport, was equally impressive though during the day, topping the timesheets in the two previous sessions and, together with Zamparelli, beating last year’s pole time of 1min 19.756s.

Zamparelli back to best…

Cold but sunny conditions greeted drivers for the first session of the day with Hamilton laying down the early marker by ending the stint quickest with a 1min 20.247s. Zamparelli was the only other driver to join him in the 1min 20s with Scorpio Motorsport’s Hector Hurst and Hillspeed’s Zaamin Jaffer also looking quick for the session. Russian Ivan Taranov, running with new team Daytona, was unable to show his full potential with a spin at Hawthorne Bend ending his day.

With the track temperature slowly creeping up it was Hamilton who once again led the way in the second session and the first driver to dip into the 1min 19s. Zamparelli, Hurst and Jaffer continued to post strong times together with 18-year-old James Thorp from Evesham running with MTech.

The wind had picked up by the start of the final session of the day with many drivers opting to use new tyres. The session saw an early retirement for Lymington racer Hurst though who spun on his opening lap undoing his previous good work. In the rest of the pack, improvements were being made by 26-year-old Chesterfield racer Tom Walker, running with new team JWA Racing, who was starting to find his rhythm.

At the top of the timesheets though were the two more experienced pilots of Hamilton and Zamparelli with the two often swapping places ahead of Thorp and Cardiff-based Indian racer Jaffer. Fortec Motorsport’s latest signing Spaniard Victor Jiminez, 27, was also looking sharp with SWB Motorsport’s Raoul Owens, 16, and Hillspeed’s Sean Walkinshaw from Chipping Norton, also making steady progress.

Not all drivers expected to register for the series though were present at today’s test, while others had elected to run in tomorrow’s test day.

Speaking after the final session on day one Zamparelli said: “It’s gone well today and it’s been good to have some running on new tyres after more than a year. There were a few red flags and a bit of traffic to contend with in the final session but I managed to get some quick laps in and the car felt good. Archie [Hamilton] has also been quick today and will obviously be a driver to watch this season but at the moment I’m just concentrating on finding my form.”

Day two of the official pre-season test at Croft takes place tomorrow (March, 9th) with a further test on March, 18th at Silverstone in conjunction with the Championship’s inaugural Media Day. The opening rounds of the season are held at Donington Park on 23rd/24th April.