The 2011 Auto GP season got off the line today with the first official test day on the Barcelona track. Fifteen drivers gathered at the Circuit de Catalunya, with a very clear weather giving the teams the chance to complete with no issues their different testing programs.

At the end of the day Luca Filippi emerged as the quickest driver: testing with TP Formula in the morning and with SuperNova in the afternoon, the Italian driver was the only one to break the 1'33 mark, posting an impressive 1'32"676. Behind him were two rookies that are already on the right pace, Giovanni Venturini and Kevin Ceccon: driving for Durango, Venturini was quickest in the morning with 1'33"142, eventually his best time for the whole day, while Ceccon had a steady and impressive improvement, leading him to a good 1'33"208 in the afternoon session. Ceccon managed to stay ahead of Zaugg, the South-African confirming all his talent with the second quickest laptime in the morning with SuperNova.

Jon Lancaster, meanwhile, achieved a very impressive debut on the Auto GP car: the Brit showed the right approach, and by the end of the day he posted a 1'33"620 on new rubber, roughly the same pace of his team-mate Marco Barba (1'33"667). Behind Barba were Adrien Tambay, first of the DAMS drivers, Fabrizio Crestani and Rio Haryanto, who finished in the top ten thanks to an impressive progression in the afternoon and managed to stay ahead of Fabio Onidi. The experienced Italian driver was followed by two absolute rookies, Bruno Mendez and Samuele Buttarelli: being at the first kilometres on the Lola-Zytek car, they both focused on getting acquainted with the car, something that will undoubtedly prove useful tomorrow.

It was a very similar situation for Chris Van der Drift and Sergei Afanasiev, completing their first laps on the Auto GP car, while Giuseppe Cipriani brought his learning process further forward, with big improvements in the afternoon up to a final 1'36"994.

Auto GP Official Test, March 23rd Overall classification
1 Luca Filippi SuperNova 1'32"676
2 Giovanni Venturini Durango 1'33"142
3 Kevin Ceccon Ombra 1'33"208
4 Adrian Zaugg SuperNova 1'33"426
5 Jon Lancaster Campos Racing 1'33"620
6 Luca Filippi TP Formula 1'33"648
7 Marco Barba Campos Racing 1'33"667
8 Adrien Tambay DAMS 1'33"686
9 Fabrizio Crestani Lazarus 1'34"029
10 Rio Haryanto DAMS 1'34"209
11 Fabio Onidi Lazarus 1'34"549
12 Bruno Mendez SuperNova 1'34"653
13 Samuele Buttarelli Ombra 1'35"029
14 Chris Van Der Drift TP Formula 1'35"130
15 Sergei Afanasiev DAMS 1'35"134
16 Giuseppe Cipriani Durango 1'36"994

The first test sessions of the 2011 Auto GP season has just ended in Barcelona, giving two clear indications on what to expect: first of all, given the tight gaps between drivers, the fight for both the overall and the rookie title promises to be really hard. Secondly, the steady technical development going on from the last months of 2009 is paying dividends, and made the Auto GP package one of the most interesting in international motorsport.

The best overall laptime by Luca Filippi in Barcelona, 1'31"933, is indeed the quickest time ever posted at Circuit de Catalunya by a racing car apart from F1 and GP2, clearly showing that Auto GP is the car to beat in the one-make series panorama. The Italian driver posted that time in the morning session, when cold temperatures made the track quicker, while in the afternoon heat made the circuit slower, with the team focusing on development and race simulations.

Behind Filippi was again Giovanni Venturini, the Durango rookie showing a really natural talent in finding the limit very early and then a special ability in lapping on it steadily. Venturini closed the day ahead of another Auto GP rookie, Jon Lancaster, who already learned how to make the most of new tyres posting a good 1'32"334. Just one tenth adrift was Adrien Tambay, taking DAMS back in the high area of the classification ahead of SuperNova's Adrian Zaugg. The performance by the South-African driver was really good, as he was the only one to improve in the afternoon session, the slower one.

Behind Zaugg was an all-Lazarus duo, Fabrizio Crestani and Fabio Onidi, with nearly identical laptimes and a big improvement compared to the previous day. Just 0.05 from Onidi was the whole Ombra line-up, with Samuele Buttarelli slightly in front of Ceccon: in the afternoon they both focused on pit-stops and race simulations, with interesting results. Rio Haryanto gained more and more confidence with the DAMS car, closing the top ten in front of Bruno Mendez and Marco Barba.

Sergei Afanasiev, driving for DAMS, closed the day in P13 ahed of the two new-entries Gabby Chaves and Daniel Mancinelli, with TP Formula. Both coming from the Italian F3, they were at their first contact with the car, and so together with the team they opted for a cautious approach, aiming to learn as much as possible of its behaviour.

Barcelona official Auto GP test, Combined laptimes for March 24th
1 Luca Filippi SuperNova 1'31"933
2 Giovanni Venturini Durango 1'32"154
3 Jon Lancaster Campos Racing 1'32"334
4 Adrien Tambay DAMS 1'32"446
5 Adrian Zaugg SuperNova 1'32"499
6 Fabrizio Crestani Lazarus 1'32"936
7 Fabio Onidi Lazarus 1'32"968
8 Samuele Buttarelli Ombra 1'33"013
9 Kevin Ceccon Ombra 1'33"138
10 Rio Haryanto DAMS 1'33"188
11 Bruno Mendez SuperNova 1'33"274
12 Marco Barba Campos Racing 1'33"340
13 Sergei Afanasiev DAMS 1'33"595
14 Gabby Chaves TP Formula 1'33"910
15 Daniel Mancinelli TP Formula 1'34"991
16 Giuseppe Cipriani Durango 1'35"996

All Photos Auto GP.

Luca Filippi in the TP Formula car.

Giovanni Venturini was quick on both days.

Newcomer Jon Lancaster was impressive in the Campos car.

Kevin Ceccon was fast on Day 1.

South Africa's Adrian Zaugg.

2010 race winner Adrien Tambay is back.

Fabio Onidi is another 2010 experienced driver.

Bruno Mendez the SuperNova car.

Samuele Buttarelli.

Rio Haryanto drove for DAMS.

Luca Filippi was very fast for the SuperNova team.