Karun Chandhok was in top form in the final GP2 Series tests at the Paul Ricard circuit last week, topping the times on the opening day and finishing fourth in the second. The 24-year-old from Chennai, who is backed by Red Bull, JK Tyre, Amaron and ICSA Logistics, had suffered a trying time in the previous two test sessions with his new iSport International car, as numerous technical issues had hindered his track time.
This time it was different.
"It was a big relief to have a problem-free couple of test days at last," said Karun. "I always believed that I would be on the pace when we had ironed out these teething problems, and I finally got to prove it. The team and I have really been working hard to fix the problems and it was nice to finally get down to working on setup changes. My engineer Richard Selwin and I worked through a good program which has given us a better understanding of the new car for the main series. Bruno ( Senna, team-mate ) and I have also established a good relationship and this I think is helping us as a team."
Despite tricky weather conditions, due to high winds, Chandhok lapped the Paul Ricard circuit in 1m12.717s on Wednesday. He ended the day nearly a tenth of a second clear of Piquet Sports driver Pastor Maldonado with the current GP2 Asia series leader Romain Grosjean in third. On day two on Thursday, the teams had to change the set-up of their cars overnight in order to run in high-downforce-spec. Again, Chandhok adapted well to the first test with the car carrying these settings, lapping a different, more twisty layout of the track in 1m10.210s, which was less than two-tenths off the pace in fourth place.
Karun added: "These two days of testing have put us in a good position ahead of the season-opener. We got through a great amount of work including some qualifying and race simulations as well as some pitstop practices. I do feel that we have taken a step forward with the new GP2/08 car but at the moment it still looks like there are at least 14 drivers who could potentially win races this year."
The main GP2 Series starts in Barcelona on April 26/27 supporting the Spanish Grand Prix. However, Chandhok's next race is the third round of GP2 Asia in Sepang, supporting the Malaysian Grand Prix on March 22/23. Looking ahead to the weekend, he said "I'm really looking forward to Sepang. It's a great circuit and one that I have really enjoyed racing on in the past. It's nice to finish the European tests well as a bit of a confidence boost ahead of next weekend's race. There are normally quite a few Indians who come over to Sepang for the grand prix and we're going to try and give them something extra to cheer about !"
-credit: karun chandhok