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Eurocup Mégane Trophy

With six drivers in the same second throughout the first collective testing sessions of the year, the new season promises to be action-packed. Much will be expected of the impressive Albert Costa (Oregon Team), but the 2009 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion will face stern opposition from team-mates Fabien Thuner and Niccolo Nalio, as well as from TDS Racing pair Bas Schothorst and Kelvin Snoeks, who were also up with the pace. It was Nalio, however, who set the tempo and was the fastest man overall after two days of testing.

The Megane Trophy has been modified for the new season, and now packs a new engine and an extra 40 bhp under the bonnet. The drivers had the chance to try out the new set-up for the first time during the maiden collective testing sessions of the season at Motorland Aragón. And it did not take long for them to discover the improved performance potential.

Eurocup Megane Trophy 2010 winner Nick Catsburg, in Spain to share his experience with Michaël Munemann (Algarve Pro), was the first driver to set about challenging the track record of 2:02.578, set by Stefano Comini in 2011. Catsburg beat Comini’s time with a lap of 2:02.525, and with it shot to the top of the timesheets. However, at the end of the session, Oregon Team’s Fabien Thuner, who twice finished on the podium in the Eurocup Megane Trophy last season, went even better and snatched the fastest time of the morning with a lap of 2:02.266.

Thuner, who has worked his way through the ranks of the championship-winning Oregon Team, continued in the same vein in the afternoon. With a lap of 2:01.626, the Swiss youngster was the only driver to clock a time below 2:02. Catsburg moved back up into second spot, ahead of Bas Schothorst and two competition debutants, Italy’s Kevin Gilardoni (Oregon Team) and Dutchman Kelvin Snoeks (TDS Racing). The pair, like Albert Costa, usually race single-seaters and are embarking on their first season at the wheel of Renault Sport Technologies’ high-performance hatchback.

Costa’s learning curve continued on Friday morning, and he was the first driver to take to the track after spending several hours working with his team the night before. The Spaniard, who topped the podium once in last season’s Formula Renault 3.5 Series, stepped up the pace and topped the timesheets for a large part of the session, before Snoeks and Thuner came back with improved efforts. Costa appeared well at home in his new car as he recorded a time of 2:01.148. But it was Nalio who then stole the show, clocking a time of 2:00.766 to shave nearly two seconds off the track record.

After an intense afternoon session, some of the drivers squeezed in one final run before the end of the day. Thuner finished the session in top spot, but it was Nalio who finished the two-days of testing as the fastest man overall. The drivers will now turn their attention to the next round of collective testing, to be held in Barcelona in April.

What they said:

Niccolo Nalio: “My aim is to win the title, and it’s important for my confidence to be at the top of the timesheets. The level is very high and it’s great to be up against new drivers like Albert Costa and Kelvin Snoeks. The modified engine does not change a great deal on the driving side of things – it just alters certain reference points. But it does boost performance. There are several good drivers in Oregon Team, but there’s no tension between us – we’re a big family of enthusiasts.”

Albert Costa: “I’m discovering a whole new world! At the moment, I’m learning every time I get into the car. I’m not yet at the stage where I can get the absolute maximum out of my car, by in the next round of tests in Barcelona, I think I’ll be able to push a bit harder. It’s an important season for me, and I’m here to win.”

Kelvin Snoeks: “After several seasons driving single-seaters in Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula 2, I decided to switch to saloon cars this year to move my career in a different direction. I took part in testing in the Megane Trophy in Barcelona in 2011, and to me it seems the best way to move from one discipline to another, as there are similarities. Testing went well and I’m on the pace, even if I do have an awful lot to learn.”

Official Renault Sport Press Release

Posted: 23 March 2012
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