Nick Tandy fired a warning shot to his British F3 rivals by finishing top of the times in official testing for the first time this season at Rockingham today.
He gave his beleaguered JTR team a much-needed boost, following the recent death of team founder Joe Tandy in a car accident, by setting quickest times in both sessions ahead of the third round of the championship this weekend.
Tandy, who lies second in the championship after two rounds, lapped the Rockingham circuit in a 1m12.544s best in the faster morning session, his Mygale-Mercedes just 0.029sec faster than the Dallara-Volkswagen of championship leader Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin).
The hottest weather of the season so far suited the French car and Tandy also set the fastest time in the red flag-interrupted afternoon session, 0.109sec quicker than the similarly Mercedes-motivated car of Riki Christodoulou (Fortec), albeit almost three tenths slower than his morning best.
"We've got some different bits on the car this weekend that have shifted the balance into a more favourable state," said Tandy. "And our cracking Mercedes engine is working particularly well when firing us out of the hairpins.
"That said, we've always gone well around Rockingham – it suits the car – so I'm not surprised to be up there. We just have to make sure we stay there in qualifying tomorrow. If I have a sniff of an opportunity to win this weekend, then I'm going to take it."
Driver coach and stand in team boss Stuart Prior added: "We just want to have a good weekend and carry on doing things exactly as Joe would have wanted.
"We know we've got the race pace, we just need to qualify better and if we qualify where we were today, then we'll be a threat."
Ricciardo's Carlin teammate Henry Arundel showed greater assurance behind the wheel, following a heavy testing shunt earlier this season. He posted the third-fastest time, 0.028sec clear of Christodoulou's Spanish team-mate Victor Garcia, who has improved markedly since a confidence-boosting test here 11 days ago.
Japanese F3 race winner Marcus Ericsson made his British F3 return a week early for Raikkonen Robertson Racing and set the fifth fastest time, 0.031s clear of Silverstone winner Renger van der Zande (Hitech).
T-Sport's Gabriel Dias was the fastest of the National Class runners in 13th overall, impressively only half a second adrift of the ultimate pace in an older car.
Pos Driver Team Car Time
1. Nick Tandy JTR M/M 1m12.544s
2. Daniel Ricciardo Carlin D/V 1m12.573s
3. Henry Arundel Carlin D/V 1m12.673s
4. Victor Garcia Fortec D/M 1m12.701s
5. Marcus Ericsson Double R D/M 1m12.754s
6. Renger van der Zande Hitech D/M 1m12.785s
7. Riki Christodoulou Fortec D/M 1m12.869s
8. Adriano Buzaid T-Sport D/V 1m12.906s
9. Max Chilton Carlin D/V 1m12.952s
10. Daisuke Nakajima Double R D/M 1m12.972s
11. Carlos Huertas Double R D/M 1m13.004s
12. Walter Grubmuller Hitech D/M 1m13.017s
13. Gabriel Dias T-Sport (N) D/H 1m13.102s
14. Wayne Boyd T-Sport D/V 1m13.294s
15. Hywel Lloyd CF Racing D/H 1m13.295s
16. Jay Bridger Litespeed M/H 1m13.357s
17. Daniel McKenzie Fortec (N) D/H 1m13.864s
18. Stephane Richelmi Barazi Epsilon D/M 1m14.048s
19. Victor Correa Litespeed (N) S/H 1m15.417s
20. Max Snegirev West-Tec (N) D/H 1m15.758s