Lariche fastest on final day in Portimao
Benjamin Lariche stormed to the top of the timesheets in the final test session in Portimao, setting a scintillating pace despite cooling conditions around the 4.6km circuit on Friday.
Lariche's best effort, a 1:34.619s effort, came in the final ten minutes of the session as he battled with Alex Brundle and Jack Clarke to finish fastest at the close of Formula Two's official winter test in Portugal. His benchmark time was more than five tenths faster than the overall best set in qualifying when F2 visited the track in July this year.
Clarke, the standout driver for much of the two days of running, had looked set to top the timesheets for the fourth consecutive session as he sat almost half a second clear of the field with 20 minutes remaining.
The advent of fresh rubber led to a marked fall in times however, with drivers also utilizing the overboost function for the final 40 minute session. Spain's Ram¢n Pineiro was the first to make his charge as he twice threatened to dip below the 1m35s bracket, before Lariche took a spell at the top on his first flying lap with fresh tires.
Clarke then took his turn at the top, setting a 1:34.785s effort, only for Lariche to respond almost immediately to move just over one tenth of a second clear. Alex Brundle then made his stand by setting the fastest times in sectors two and three, but fell agonizingly short of Lariche's effort and slotted into second instead.
Pinero’s early burst was enough for him to remain fourth fastest, with Jolyon Palmer - a polesitter for both races in the Algarve - rounding out the top five, less than half a second behind Lariche.
Max Snegirev edged out Mikkel Mac by the narrowest of margins to secure sixth fastest, the Russian edging out Mac - who had been fifth fastest until the closing stages - by just one thousandth of a second.
Bruno Mendez meanwhile won the battle of the Spaniards as he finished ninth fastest ahead of compatriot Jose Alonso Liste. André Negrão, Thiemo Storz and Plamen Kralev rounded out the final session's runners.
Natalia Kowalska had been impressive in the day's earlier two sessions, finishing inside the top ten on both occasions, but the brave Pole had been fighting through the pain of a damaged wrist which eventually forced her to halt the test halfway through the second session. Her best time, a 1:36.505s, was all the more impressive as it was set without overboost and without a proper fresh tire run.
Formula Two will travel to Barcelona, Spain, on 9/10 December for the second part of its 2010 winter test program.