2011 is just two weeks old, but the Auto GP engines have been started already. Thanks to a steadily raising interest for the series, interest that led many drivers to ask for a test in the Auto GP car even in deep winter time, three teams gathered in Valencia for a two-day testing session that got underway yesterday.

New entry Campos Racing and two teams that were on the maiden year's grid, Durango and Lazarus, opened the season unleashing the scream of the Zytek engine for the first time in 2011. The teams brought on track a really varied group of drivers in terms of both age and experience. 19 years-old Giovanni Venturini was the youngest, driving for Durango together with Giuseppe Cipriani, already with the team in the last event of the 2010 Series in Monza. Campos Racing opted for the European F3 Open champion Marco Barba flanked by Adrian Campos Jr., coming from a good season in the Indy Lights series. At Lazarus, Fabio Onidi rejoined the team after racing with them in the 2010 Auto GP campaign.

Running in very low air and track temperatures the teams managed to complete their different programs and the cars ran flawlessly: Campos Racing, debuting on track with the Auto GP Lola-Zytek, focused on getting acquainted with the cars and gathering valuable datas, boasting also some excellent laptimes. After 50 laps for each car, the best time from Marco Barba was 1'23"2, with Campos Jr. very close with 1'23"5. It was Giovanni Venturini who took honours as the quickest driver of Day 1 with Durango: the Italian is coming from two very good seasons, with wins in the F.Renault Eurocup and in the Italian and Swiss series, and in Valencia he confirmed his talent with a 1'23"1 posted in the afternoon. In the morning the same car was driven by Giuseppe Cipriani who continued the learning process he had started in Monza, closing the test with 1'25"2.

Being the only unchanged pair from 2010, Onidi and Lazarus where the only ones able to focus on a development program: the Italian outfit tried some different set-up solutions and started an aerodynamic study of the car thanks to sensors placed in key zones of the bodywork. At the end of the day the best time was 1'23"8 that left team and driver very happy considering that they never used new tyres. On track work will go on today until 5 PM with only one change: Lazarus will field Fabrizio Crestani, who boasted some very good performances both in Auto GP and GP2 in 2010.

Tuesday was as a very good second day of testing for the Auto GP teams that traveled to Valencia. On a quicker track, mainly due to cleaner racing lines and more rubber on the tarmac, drivers had the opportunity to push harder and as a result the average pace was lowered by as much as 1".

The best laptime was from Campos Racing: after focusing on getting acquainted with the car on the first day, the team went for raw performance and the outcome was a 1'21"8 posted by Marco Barba, a really impressive laptime considering that on the Ricardo Tormo circuit only F1 and GP2 were quicker that that. Adrian Campos Jr, on the other car, showed a very good progression too, improving his laptime to 1'22"5. Lazarus, with Fabrizio Crestani replacing Fabio Onidi, posted a 1'22"5 too leaving the team principal Tancredi Pagiaro very satisfied: "I think it's a very good result because Fabrizio had not driven the Auto GP car since June, and both he and the team didn't have any particular knowledge of the circuit. Being so quick after just some hours together was amazing, especially considering that we used just one set of new tyres. I'd also like to say thanks to Auto GP, because at high level it's the only Series that allows the teams to do some free testing, letting them free to manage a quota of 1000 kms per car. It creates some good opportunities for both teams and drivers".

Durango was on track too, but on Tuesday Giuseppe Cipriani took most of the driving duties, steadily improving his laptimes up to 1'24"1. As a consequence Giovanni Venturini had just 30 minutes in the car but even in just a few laps on old tyres he managed to repeat his best time from Monday, 1'23"1, confirming a very good feeling with the Zytek powered car.

Marco Barba:
"The car really impressed me. My best laptime was quicker than the 1'22.0 I managed in testing with the World Series car, a laptime that came on a very 'rubbered' track and after 4 days of testing. Considering that both me and the team were at the first contact with the Auto GP car I'm sure we can be even faster, but I'm really happy of our pace. The car is good overall, the chassis gives a very good feeling both in the slow and fast sectors, and the engine is amazing. It's the only purpose-built engine in the feeder-series scenario and you can clearly feel this while driving it, it pushes like hell even at low revs. It was a very positive session and now I'll keep working with Campos Racing to prepare the season".

Adrian Campos Jr:
"Testing was good and the car is just awesome, there are no other words to define it. I'm coming from a season in USA and I think that on a track like Valencia Auto GP could be quicker than an Indycar. Undoubtedly it's way quicker than the Indy Lights I was driving in 2010, it has 200 bhp more and it's better in everything it does, including braking. The team worked flawlessly and after each setup change we were improving, meaning that we already understood the car. Now I really hope that I will be on the grid in of the 2011 season".

Giovanni Venturini:
"Auto GP is really a great car, the most impressive I've ever driven. It's staggeringly quick and at the same time it's very demanding, a real race car. Overall it's also much more fun to drive compared to the other cars I've tried, and that's also good. In two days I did only 50 laps but I had an immediate feeling, posting good times quickly. The engine was amazing but I was expecting that, I was more surprised by the braking, I wasn't expecting that much power from steel discs".

All pictures courtesy of AutoGP.org.