Neel Jani driving the Belgium car, topped the timesheets in first practice for Superleague Formula's Grand Prix of Zolder, edging out Craig Dolby (England) and John Martin (Australia) in a closely-fought opening run.
The Belgian car didn't hit the track until halfway through the 40-minute session, but when he finally emerged from the pits Swiss-born racer Jani wasted little time in getting among the pacesetters, leaping to P4 on his first quick lap. He then went to the top of the times with under five minutes remaining, toppling Dolby to end the session a slender 0.161s clear of the England car.
“I had to get used to the car again a little bit,” said Jani afterwards, “On the first run I forgot to use the push-to-pass because I wasn’t used to it anymore but overall I think it was a good start. We were quickest but then you know, it´s Free Practice, but it never hurts. So far so good, now we just need to improve a few things on the car a little bit and then we´ll see. Everything is very close. I had two laps with a few 10ths so from that point of view we have a constant pace which is good. It would be nice to have a little more gap over second position.
Craig Dolby was equally upbeat over his second spot. “We never try to be at the front in free practice, we always do our own thing. So to be at the sharp-end straight away is great. We are looking quite strong I think, The car feels really good and the team are working hard. I´m just enjoying it. To be honest we are going to make a few changes which will hopefully make us go a bit quicker so I can´t wait.
““It was good because we had lots of consistently quick laps, we never try to just put a single one in, We were running a lot of fuel and doing a start-of-the-race simulation, so I´m fairly impressed with that, and it takes a lot to get me impressed with myself.”
Russian race Mikhail Aleshin rated as one of the best young drivers in the world also impressed in his first time in a Superleague car. “I think that overall it was ok. It´s very important to get used to the push-to -pass button, I think the other drivers use it to set their best laps. I tried it on my best lap but I think that I didn’t get it exactly right, so I need more experience with it. But yes it was good. You can feel that it’s a big car especially on the slow corners but it´s quite fun to drive definitely.”
You can watch this weekend's Superleague action at independent.co.uk/superleaguelive