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Current action intense as teams mull over December testing ban

THE FIA World Motorsport Council has decided to ban all Formula 1 testing between the end of the season and DecemberĘ31,Ę2000 - thus extending the current ban to two months. This is likely to mean that teams will plan for more intensive testing programs in the autumn and in January 2001.

The last few days has seen considerable testing action around Europe with the three-day test in Barcelona coming to a close and another test beginning at Jerez. The result of the Barcelona test was fastest time for Rubens Barrichello in the 1999-spec Ferrari. The Brazilian set a best lap of 1m20.988s which was over two seconds faster than any other car - including some of the 2000 machines. Barrichello completed a total of 170 laps over the three days.

Second fastest at Barcelona was Jacques Villeneuve in the Honda-engined BAR 02. The Canadian completed 96 laps and, although the team continues to make positive noises about the reliability of the package, the pace of the car - alongside an outdated Ferrari - was not as fast as one would have expected. "We're not quick enough yet," said Jacques Villeneuve, "but it's coming along."

The BAR test team then headed on to Jerez where the week's second test began on Friday with Ricardo Zonta at the wheel. He completed 92 laps over the first two days of the test setting the fifth fastest time.

Third fastest in Barcelona was Mika Salo in the new Sauber Petronas C19. The test began with Pedro Diniz driving but he was suffering from a fever and so did only 28 laps in his two days of running, leaving Mika Salo to do most of the work. The Finn completed a total of 60 laps despite engine trouble on his second day. His best lap was a 1m23.324s. Diniz did a 1m24.034s on the first day. The Swiss team then moved on to Jerez where Diniz did two full days of running, completing a total of 133 laps of the track, setting a best time of 1.25.37s which was only slightly slower than Eddie Irvine's Jaguar - which was the fastest car up to that point.

Fourth quickest at the end of the Barcelona test was Prost's test driver Stephane Sarrazin who set a best lap of 1m23.581s after 60 laps over three days. The French team then headed back to base and is not expected to be seen again until the launch of the new car in Barcelona on February 1.

Bringing up the rear in the Barcelona testing was Jaguar. The team had both Johnny Herbert and Eddie Irvine present for two days sharing the single new car. Herbert completed 28 laps with a best of 1m23.831s while Irvine managed 32 laps with a best of 1m24.009s. Irvine said he was impressed by the new car. The Jaguar drivers then went on to Jerez where they were joined by the team's test driver Luciano Burti who completed 41 laps on the first day with a best lap of 1m25.00s. Irvine then took over and did 80 laps before handing over to Herbert. The Ulsterman's best was a 1m25.32s. Herbert did only 25 laps with a best of 1m26.44s.

Fastest of all in the first two days at Jerez was David Coulthard in the 1999 McLaren. He did a total of 117 laps and recorded a 1m24.81s. The team's test driver Olivier Panis was also running on both days but completed only 53 laps with a best of 1m25.28s - the third fastest time of the test.

The only other team in action was BMW Williams which had hoped to try out youngsters Bruno Junqueira and JensonĘButton. On the first day the team was beset by engine and gearbox problems and neither driver was able to record any timed laps and on the second day Junqueira did only 22 laps on a wet track - with a best of 1m37.48s. The test was then curtailed because of rain and so Button did not get a run. The test was due to continue on Sunday.

Back in England Arrows and Jordan were both running at Silverstone with 1999 machinery. Arrows used Australian test driver Mark Webber to continue its electronic development program. Webber did 51 laps over two days on the National circuit, his progress disrupted by gearbox trouble and bad weather. Jordan was also doing electronic testing and ran its sometime test driver Andrew Gilbert-Scott. He completed 20 laps of running.

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