America's Alexander Rossi came out on top of the first GP3 group test session at Paul Ricard, in preparation for the inaugural season of the latest F1 ladder series. Rossi not only set the quickest time of the week, but also headed three of the four sessions held for the 280hp Renault-powered spec Dallara chassis.
Having led the way in Thursday morning's initial test, the ART driver was quickest in both of today's sessions as well, eventually getting down to 1m20.013sec around Ricard's 3D configuration. Rossi led an ART team 1-2 this afternoon ahead of teammate – and fellow Formula BMW Americas series graduate – Esteban Gutierrez, who had been fastest yesterday in the one session Rossi did not top.
ART team boss Frederic Vasseur was delighted with his squad's form, but also with the reliability and performance of the GP3 car in its track debut.
"This has been a really positive first test session for us, but also for GP3 in general," he said. "Our cars have been consistently reliable throughout the two days, and we have covered a significant amount of running, gathering invaluable data to move forward. After watching the cars on track these past two days, I think it's safe to say that we have a great season of racing ahead of us."
Carlin's Max Chilton and Adriano Buzaid were next up in the final session, followed by Michael Christensen for MW Arden. Addax's Pablo Sanchez Lopez and Manor's James Jakes had completed the top three in the morning.
The 16-race GP3 Series is organized by Bruno Michel, boss of the GP2 Series, in association with F1 commercial rights manager Bernie Ecclestone. It will compete at seven grands prix this year, as well as a stand-alone event in Portimao, Portugal, alongside GP2. In addition to America's Rossi and Mexico's Gutierrez, Canada's Robert Wickens also hopes to compete in GP3 this season.