F3 Basil Shaaban relishing start of 2009 F3 Euro Series
2009 FORMULA 3 EURO SERIES
Pre-season testing - Estoril and Valencia, March 2009
For immediate release
Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
ARAB WORLD'S BASIL SHAABAN RELISHING
START OF 2009 FORMULA 3 EURO SERIES
·Shaaban set to race Prema Powerteam Dallara F308/9 in 20-race series
·Lebanese racing star in strict fitness programme before opening race in Germany
·Prema Powerteam star confident after pre-season test sessions
·Transmission problems hamper progress on final Valencia stint
VALENCIA (Spain): The Arab world's leading Formula 3 racing driver, Basil Shaaban, is counting the days to the start of the exciting 2009 Formula 3 Euro Series, after setting competitive lap times in the two pre-season, two-day test sessions at the Estoril circuit on March 18-19th and at Valencia on March 23-24th.
Shaaban teamed up with Monagesque Stefano Coletti and Italian try-out driver Matteo Chinosi in a three-car Prema Powerteam at the official pre-season trials. The Lebanese racer is running an Italian-built Dallara Mercedes-Benz F308/9 in the 20-race series, which fires into life at the Hockenheim Baden-Württemberg circuit in Germany on May 15th-17th. Shaaban has retained crucial backing from long-term sponsor, Shell, for his Formula 3 exploits this season.
The 28-year-old finished 18th of the 28 runners in the morning stint of the opening official session of the new season at the demanding Estoril circuit in Portugal on March 18th. Chinosi and Coletti were 19th and 22nd.
Frenchman Jules Bianchi set the fastest lap in the first qualifying stint. Coletti clocked the 16th fastest lap of 1m 33.597s during his 55-lap session in the afternoon and Shaaban toured in 21st with a fastest lap of 1m 34s. Chinosi was 22nd, but Bianchi was again the man to beat with a session-winning lap of 1m 31.912s.
The Frenchman continued to dominate the practice times during the second morning session on March 19th in warm, sunny conditions. He clocked a session-winning tour of 1m 31.678s, although the Prema Powerteam trio of Coletti, Shaaban and Chinosi were 10th, 17th and 26th, Shaaban recording a fastest lap of 1m 33.465s.
Clutch problems thwarted any improvement for Shaaban in the afternoon, but his Prema colleagues were 11th and 22nd overall. Nonetheless, the Lebanese was upbeat about the two-day session heading into the all-important Valencia programme on March 23rd-24th.
"Estoril was the first official test session of the new season," enthused Shaaban. "All 10 confirmed teams and 28 drivers were present. It was my first running with the Prema team this year. The drive train issue was unfortunate and it meant I had to abort a new tyre run.
"We were improving in the car over the two days, so it was a little disappointing to have the problem and I couldn't really look at my afternoon lap times on the second day for comparisons. We did a lot of test and development work on the set-up and I got a good feeling for how the Prema Dallara F308/9 needs to be driven."
Finland's Atte Mustonen dominated the first day of testing and practice times in Valencia on Monday (March 23rd), where Shaaban's team mate, Coletti, recorded the 10th quickest time when the morning and afternoon sessions were combined. A mere two seconds separated the entire field, with Shaaban posting a lap of 1m 29.678s in the morning session.
The Shell-backed driver insists that he is working well with Prema's team engineer Didier Dumont and was confident of improvements in the second Valencia session. While highly fit and lean, the Lebanese is actually the heaviest driver in the Formula 3 Euro Series - at a race weight of 85kgs - and is working hard to shed a further five kilogrammes of body weight before the opening race in May.
"We are also working on the set-up of the Dallara to reduce the understeer that my weight creates," he adds. "The F3 Euro Series really is the only place to be for a driver who wants to develop himself and progress in the sport. I am very excited and optimistic for the new season. I love the car, the team and the journey ahead."
Shaaban, hampered by gearbox failure on the morning of the second day, posted his fastest lap of 1m 30.064s in the slower afternoon conditions at Valencia. Spain's Roberto Mehri won the combined session with a winning morning lap of 1m 26.989s, with Coletti recording the seventh fastest time and Chinosi slotting into 18th position.
"The gearbox failure on Tuesday morning during my first tyre run didn't allow me to set a good time," admitted Basil. "We had major problems to repair it and I didn't run again until late in the afternoon session. While the car felt nervous and I wasn't able to drive a consistent and quick lap, as least we were able to do some more running to continue learning and developing the package. Valencia was definitely a challenging test!"
2009 Formula 3 Euro Series - calendar (2 races per meeting)
Hockenheim Baden-Württemberg May 15-17
Euro Speedway Lausitz May 29-31
Norisring June 26-28
Circuit Park Zandvoort July 17-19
Motorsport Arena Oschersleben July 31-August 2
Nurburgring August 14-16
Brands Hatch September 4-6
Circuit de Catalunya September 18-20
Circuit de Dijon-Prenois October 9-11
Hockenheim Baden-Württemberg October 23-25
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