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JANUARY 18, 1999

Zanardi fastest in Spanish testing

THE Williams team set the fastest time in last week's testing in Barcelona with Alessandro Zanardi completing 125 laps of the track with a best of 1m23.76s, which was set on the first test of the Spanish test. He was joined for two of the three days of running by Ralf Schumacher but the German completed only 70 laps. He nonetheless set a best time of 1m24.16s. The Williams test team left the test encouraged by the lap times and confident that when the new Williams-Supertec FW21 appears it will be much quicker.

There was much media attention given to the performances of British American Racing with Jacques Villeneuve recording the second fastest time of the test with a best lap of 1m23.919s. This seems to be promising although the team had a string of small problems which meant that Villeneuve did not do as many laps as had been hoped. In the course of the three days of running he completed only 70 laps as the team worked to develop the suspension of the BAR chassis and the Supertec V10 engine. The car continues to be quick," reported Villeneuve, "but we haven't done enough laps. We haven't done enough work, but the essentials of the car are good."

While the lap times have provided the new team with plenty of publicity their relevance remains uncertain as the BAR-Supertec 01 has yet to be seen in action against the 1999 cars of the other F1 teams. BAR will now move to Jerez where there will be a test between January 23-25 at which the team will be able to compare its car with the new Benetton B199 and the Stewart SF3. The Jerez test will give Ricardo Zonta his first run in the new BAR chassis.

Ferrari was in Spain for only two days with Eddie Irvine and Luca Badoer sharing the work. The pair completed 300 laps of the track with Irvine setting a best of 1m23.99s and Badoer just a fraction slower with a 1m24.08s. The new Ferrari is due to make its debut at the end of the month.

Arrows was in action with Pedro de la Rosa and Toranosuke Takagi - the two men who are in competition for the team's second seat alongside Mika Salo. The work was concentrated on engine development and trying out suspension settings with the latest Bridgestone tires. De la Rosa set the faster time of the pair, recording a lap of 1m24.30s in the course of his 82 laps of the track. The Spaniard - who has considerable backing from Repsol - is the favorite to land the drive.

Takagi completed around the same number of laps with a best of 1m24.50s. Salo was back in action on the third day of the test and completed 68 laps with a best of 1m24.65s.

The only other team to be seen in action was Prost Grand Prix which had two cars on all three days of the test. Olivier Panis and Jarno Trulli completed a total of 250 laps with the old Prost-Peugeot chassis, Panis recording a best of 1m24.60s and Trulli 1m24.92s. Both drivers are keen to get their hands on the Prost AP02 which is to be launched at Guyancourt on JanuaryƊ25.

The focus now switches to Jerez where Arrows, BAR, Benetton and Stewart will be in action between January 23-25 and then back to Barcelona where McLaren, Williams, Sauber, Prost and Minardi are scheduled to be running on January 26-28.