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Al Fardan sets pace in practice

BAHRAIN'S Hamad Al Fardan yesterday achieved yet another milestone in his young motorsport career after finishing fastest in the second free practice in the ninth round of the British Formula three International Series' National Class, being held at the Thruxton Circuit at Hampshire, England.

Al Fardan, driving for Performance Racing Europe, registered a best lap of one minute 07.139 seconds to top the timesheets in yesterday's afternoon session, improving from his fourth-placed finish in the morning practice where he had a quickest lap of 1:08.378.

"This feels great; it's the first time for me this season to lead the class, and it's my first time on this track, which makes it a little sweeter," Al Fardan told the GDN by telephone last night.

"We changed the car set-up a little bit but we really didn't do anything much differently from the previous rounds. We just kept our focus on improving all the time, and were rewarded. This is a great achievement not only for me but for the whole team, and for all those who have supported me."

Meanwhile, compatriot Shaikh Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa of T-Sport, had his best outing in the morning practice when he was third-quickest in 1:08.007. He was faster in the afternoon, but still dropped a few places in classification with a best lap of 1:07.963.

"The day started well; I managed to find pace quickly and I found myself not in a bad place in third in the morning session," said Shaikh Salman, who is also making his debut at Thruxton.

"It was quite different in the second practice with so many red flags and the cars almost driving around like a train for long periods, but I was able to shave a half-tenth of a second from my morning time."

Al Fardan's Chinese teammate Cong Fu Cheng was quickest in the opening session with a best lap of 1:07.115. He was followed by Shaikh Salman's teammate Sergio Perez, who had a quickest lap of 1:07.160.

In fifth through seventh were Viktor Jensen of Alan Docking Racing, Michael Meadows of Raikkonen Robertson Racing, and Juan Pablo Garcia Samano of Fluid Motorsport.

In the afternoon, it was Al Fardan who was ahead of Perez. The Mexican had a best lap of 1:07.228. Third-quickest was Cheng in 1:07.292. Fourth and fifth were Meadows and Samano, followed by Shaikh Salman and Jensen.

Despite his setting the pace, 20-year-old Al Fardan will not be taking anything for granted in today's qualifying. "I'm ahead, but everyone was still very fast and I could have been behind any of them," the Gulf Finance House-sponsored driver said.

"It will be very difficult to hold on to the lead, and a real challenge to keep up the pace, but I will try my best and hope for the best until the end of the round. We need to get all the laps done to the best we can and try not to make any mistakes, and then hopefully everything will fall into place after that."

Twenty-six-year-old Shaikh Salman, who is backed by Unicorn Investment Bank, added: "There is a lot to feel good about heading into the qualifying. After looking at the data from our practices, we have identified the areas where we can improve and will be looking for a few other things to change. But we have a lot of potential, and I believe that we can improve much more before our races on Sunday."



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