Protyre_BARC_Renault_logoScorpio Motorsport locked out the top two places on the timesheets during official Protyre Formula Renault Championship testing at Snetterton 200 Circuit this morning, Wednesday, 24th April, with Ivan Taranov (Oxford) heading team-mate Henrique Baptista (Eastbourne) by 0.2 seconds.

Swithland-based Scorpio, title winners in 2008 and 2009, dominated the bright and dry three and a half hour session with Russian racer Taranov posting a best time of 1m11.444 seconds (99.97mph), compared to Baptista’s quickest of 1m11.657 seconds (99.67mph).

Continuing the sort of front-running pace which netted him a podium at Donington Park during the opening race meeting of the season earlier this month, Taranov certainly confirmed his genuine championship credentials with today’s performance. For Brazilian driver Baptista, his excellent run put the difficulties of being forced to miss the opening two rounds of the season firmly behind him.

“Ivan was faultless today really, he was pretty much there from the start and popped in a good time on old rubber early on”, explained Scorpio team principal Jon Pettitt, “We sat out the session for quite a bit after that but nobody seemed to be challenging the time that much, then we went on new tyres but could have found more time – we should have found more time really.

“Henrique did a great job, we didn’t know what to expect as he’s had a tough time of it lately with misfortune in pre-season testing at Silverstone and then his engine going at Donington. He didn’t put his best sectors together otherwise it could have ended the other way round with him quickest. All in all, it’s been a pretty good day for us and a very enjoyable test.”

Third fastest today was points leader Chris Middlehurst (St. Helens), the MGR Motorsport driver producing a best time of 1m11.844 seconds (99.41mph) to end the morning just under 0.2 seconds shy of Baptista but a mere 0.029 seconds ahead of Jamun Racing’s Diego Menchaca (Bedford).

Fifth quickest was Menchaca’s Mexican compatriot, and fellow member of the Escuderia Telmex programme, Jorge Cevallos (Northampton) for MGR with Jamun’s 16-year-old Pietro Fittipaldi – grandson of two-time FIA Formula One World Champion Emerson – impressing in sixth place.

MTECH Lite’s Lebanese racer Joe Ghanem, Fortec Motorsports’ Chinese driver Hong Wei Cao and MGR’s Tom Oliphant (Tarporley, Cheshire) rounded out the top nine. So evenly matched were the performances behind the pace-setting Scorpio cars, only 0.272 seconds covered Middlehurst in third to Oliphant in ninth.

Hong Kong’s Wei Fung Thong (Liverpool) ended the session 10th fastest for Fortec, just 0.043 seconds ahead of Protyre Formula Renault newcomer Jesse Anttila who delivered a strong showing on his maiden outing in an FR 2.0 car with the returning Cliff Dempsey Racing squad.

The Finnish 18-year-old, who is planning to make his race debut in the championship during the next three rounds of the season at Snetterton, ended the day within a second of the outright pace. Core Motorsport’s Piers Hickin (Knaphill), who will make his debut at the next event, was 13th quickest.

“I’m quite happy with how Jesse went today, he’s never driven slicks and wings before and was up against guys with two or three years’ experience”, said CDR team principal Cliff Dempsey, “He’s almost had a year out from racing actually, he did a little bit of Duratec [Formula Ford] back home in Finland but other than that nothing and he’s missed all of testing so he’s playing catch-up.

“The plan is to be out for the next round at Snetterton, I love Protyre Formula Renault and ideally we’d like to be back with two cars – we’re working on trying to make that happen. These are still the best cars ever made, I don’t understand why some people say it’s an old car as you can still go out and buy a brand new one if you wanted to!”

Snetterton 200 Circuit will host rounds three, four and five of the 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Championship on 11th/12th May.

Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault is additionally supported by Michelin, The Lubricant Consultancy, Petronas Syntium and NGK Spark Plugs.