Australian open-wheel rising star Daniel Ricciardo has set the fastest time in practice heading into the opening round of the British Formula 3 Championship this weekend.
The Carlin Motorsport driver clocked a time of 1m 28.166s - more than five tenths quicker than his nearest rival - to reaffirm his status as favourite heading into the Oulton Park round of the championship.
The lap was a tenth quicker than last year's pole time, but slower than the lap he set during testing in March, where he was again fastest.
Speaking to the official British F3 website, the 19-year old said he is confident of maintaining his form across the race weekend.
?The car feels great; I?m pretty comfortable with it now. When we tested here I felt good, so if we can continue this form for qualifying tomorrow, we?re in a fairly strong position,? he said.
?I haven?t done a lot of wet driving in an F3 car, but I was able to build up to that today and by the end of the session I think I was quite fast. I think no matter what the conditions are tomorrow I?ll be able to get in the car feeling pretty comfortable.?
Australians aspiring to race in Formula One have traditionally struggled to acquire the financial backing necessary to take the leap from the junior racing categories, often floundering into obscurity.
But as a member of the Red Bull young driver program, Ricciardo faces no such troubles, and is on track to become only the fifth Australian in the last three decades to reach the pinnacle of motorsport.
Ricciardo was a revelation in Europe last year, winning races at Spa, Silverstone and Barcelona on his way to a runner-up finish in the Formula Renault 2.0L Eurocup series, while he was even touted as a contender for a drive with Scuderia Toro Rosso for the '09 F1 season.
However, the Perth native had to instead be content with a seat in the biggest team in Formula 3 and the opportunity to showcase his wares in the storied feeder series.
We reckon we could handle that sort of ?downgrade??