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New cars at Jerez

BENETTON, Ligier, Jordan, Ferrari and McLaren have all been in action in testing at Jerez de la Frontera in recent days, despite the fact that the weather in southern Spain has been unsettled. Olivier Panis has been producing impressive lap times in his Bridgestone-shod 1996 Ligier-Mugen Honda, but the fastest time of the testing was set by Gerhard Berger on Friday, who recorded a 1m21.26s with the new Benetton-Renault B197. The Benetton has had a few clutch problems but is otherwise running well. The times are not really very significant at the moment as most of the new cars are still going through systems checks.

Michael Schumacher has had a number of mechanical problems during his first serious runs with the Ferrari 310B which began on Thursday and, according to the German, he has not yet done any serious lap times.

"It's not possible to know whether we can start winning right away and we won't really know that until we have tested against our competitors," he said.

Testing will continue this week at Jerez with Ferrari, McLaren and Jordan being joined by Arrows and Stewart. Both teams briefly ran their new cars last week at Silverstone.

The Stewart-Ford SF1 completed 24 laps in damp conditions, the running being split between Rubens Barrichello and Jan Magnussen. Temperatures were too low for the Bridgestone tires to work properly and one section of track was being patrolled by an official with a speed-gun as work on the track was still going on.

Arrows managed to complete just one lap late of Friday afternoon to shakedown the A18, the test having been delayed because of a last-minute gearbox problem. It was virtually dark when Hill emerged.

"I could see about three or four car lengths out there," said Damon. "But I've been around here so many times I could probably do it at midnight. But we are on our way now, I was delighted with the way it went, and the fact that it happened at all just shows how professional this team is."

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