Pre-season testing is often the point where the teams and their drivers truly get to know one another. However, in Bahrain that was not fully the case for Van Amersfoort Racing.

Tommy Smith, Sophia Floersch, and Noel León each took part in all post-season tests and raced at Macau in VAR machinery, so there is a certain level of comfort and familiarity between all parties involved.

That understanding showed itself during pre-season testing where they worked well within the setup to complete 452 laps of the Bahrain International Circuit across the three days.

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“Overall it was pretty decent,” said Team Manager Klaudija Jakaj when asked how the test had gone for her team. “The good thing is that we started with the drivers that we have been doing the post-season test with and also Macau.

"So, we kind of all know each other already and were quite comfortable. The first day was a bit of a shame with the weather conditions, we missed quite a bit of driving.

"But in the end, we tried to get the best out of it, and we learned a lot and we are going to take this into the season.”

Floersch L and Smith R form part of VAR is 2024 driver line-up
Floersch (L) and Smith (R) form part of VAR is 2024 driver line-up

She later added: “There is always a lot to learn, but I am very proud of every improvement we make, which we definitely felt also during the test as a team.  It was a bit of a difference in having the mediums and the hards, which was fairly new, but also interesting.”

In Smith, they have a driver returning for his second season in FIA Formula 3 with Van Amersfoort. He showed good progress throughout his rookie campaign in 2023 and became a much-loved member of the team.

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He will no doubt be keen to take a step in his performance this year having gone without scoring last season. To aid with his preparations he competed in the Formula Regional Oceania Championship over the winter, where he achieved a podium.

“He definitely improved,” said Jakaj as she assessed Smith’s performance in Bahrain. “He has been with us last year and we are happy to have him back again. He learned a lot and will take this into the new season, and we will help and support where we can.”

He is the one returning driver from last year’s line-up although Floersch has been a part of the VAR family previously. She raced for the team in 2019 at the Formula Regional European Championship.

A year prior she also took part in the Formula 3 European Championship with the team as well as the Macau Grand Prix – which she also competed in for VAR at the end of the 2023 campaign.

León is the lone rookie in the VAR line-up this season
León is the lone rookie in the VAR line-up this season

Floersch returns off the back of a strong season with PHM Racing that included her first points in FIA Formula 3 at the Spa-Francorchamps Feature Race, where she placed seventh.

It’s her third season in the category, with her rookie campaign coming back in 2020 with Campos Racing, and Jakaj revealed just how happy she and the rest of the team are to have her back in their garage.

“I think she feels really at home, and everyone here welcomes her pretty well. It is very fascinating how much she does next to racing itself. I admire her effort and the time she puts into everything.” revealed Jakaj. “We are very happy to work with her."

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León is the lone rookie in the VAR line-up but caught the eye in Bahrain after setting the fastest time on the opening day. He followed that up on the final day by finishing fifth in the morning session before returning in the afternoon segment to go second.

The Mexican driver comes into the category with plenty of success in his young racing career, with his most recent title triumph coming in the 2023 Euroformula Open Championship.

“He is one of our youngest,” said Jakaj. “Noel is very confident in what he does, which is very inspiring for this age. I am sure he will have a good season And the test days for sure helped. We are looking forward to a successful season together and to finally go racing.”