Norfolk-based iSport International are back in business after year on the sidelines
- Credit: GP2 Series Media Service
Twelve months ago iSport International announced it was stepping away from competing in GP2, the top Grand Prix feeder series, as it was unable to secure the budget to continue with confidence.
The Carlton Rode squad sold the team assets to Russian Igor Mazepa, who engaged the Germany-based Motopark squad to run the team under the Russian Time banner.
British racer Sam Bird was signed to lead the new squad with Tom Dillmann in the second car and the pair secured the team title while Bird very nearly snatched the drivers' title, having won five races.
However, 40-year-old Mazepa died recently, prompting Motopark to pull out, leading to the iSport management being asked to take over their former squad.
'All the key staff members are back with us, supported by some new faces to carry on from where we left off, and we are all looking forward to the challenges ahead,' said a statement on iSport's website.
'The first job is to take over the cars and equipment in Abu Dhabi to start the first pre-season test, before moving on to Bahrain, so straight back in at the deep end.'
New Zealander Mitch Evans, a protégée of former Grand Prix racer Mark Webber, had already been signed to the team, joined by Russian rookie Artem Markelov.
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For 19-year-old Evans this will be his second season in the series following on from winning the sister GP3 title back in 2012 and he hopes to build on his four podium places last year, two of which came in Monaco.
Markelov moves up from the Germany-based ATS Formula 3 series, in which he finished as Vice Champion, to contest this year's championship, having first tasted the GP2 machinery at the end of last year in the final test of the season.
The first day's testing in Abu Dhabi ended well, with Evans posting the second quickest time and newcomer Markelov back in 20th place.
Day two saw Evans continue his good form with third quickest on the day, while Jolyon Palmer, son of Snetterton's owner Jonathan Palmer, fastest of all.
Evans looked to be fastest in the final session of day three, but in the dying minutes was pipped to the top spot by Arthur Pic to round out a solid first test for the local squad.
'Finished second overall for the test,' tweeted a joyful Evans. 'Very satisfied with the work over the three days. Now on to Bahrain (the venue of the second test) next week.'
Team-mate Markelov ended the final session 16th, narrowly missing out on a top-10 position in the afternoon of the second day.
The iSport statement finished: 'We would like to thank all well wishers and supporters for the kind messages we have received in the last year, and more recently after the announcement of our return, it is humbling to know how much support we have generated over the year.'