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Berger tops Imola testing

Gerhard Berger took his Ferrari 412 T2 to the fastest time in last week's four-day test at Imola, Italy. The Austrian recorded a best lap of 1m28.49s, but this was over a second slower than the pole time achieved by Michael Schumacher the previous weekend.

Seven of the 13 Formula 1 teams stayed on at Imola after the San Marino Grand Prix, and testing began on Tuesday with Williams's David Coulthard setting the pace ahead of Jordan's Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert's Benetton. On the second day of the test, Jordan's Rubens Barrichello was fastest; but Berger - who did all four days of the test for Ferrari - dominated the last two days, recording his best time on Friday morning.

Schumacher ran only one day of the testing, but after being delayed on Friday morning with gearbox troubles, was able to set the second fastest lap (1m28.54s) of the week after just 26 laps. Herbert, however, completed 168 laps in the Benetton during the first three days of the test and was happy with his progress. Herbert - who ended up seventh fastest in the test with a best lap of 1m29.97s - stood down for half a day on Thursday to allow Benetton to give its new test driver Emmanuel Collard his first runs in the car.

Third fastest overall was Damon Hill who did the final two days of the test in his Williams-Renault. On Thursday he crashed heavily at Tosa but the car was repaired overnight and Damon set a best of 1m28.67s on Friday morning. David Coulthard took part in the first three days of the test, recording the fourth fastest time of the week with a lap of 1m29.20s.

Also in action for Williams was test driver Jean-Christophe Boullion, who was in action of Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, setting a best lap of 1m29.53s, which was the sixth fastest time of the week.

Fifth fastest, with exactly the same time as Coulthard, was Rubens Barrichello who ran on all three days of the Jordan test as the team worked on aerodynamic improvements, damper, gearbox and engine development. Eddie Irvine was also in action and set the eighth fastest lap at 1m30.41s.

Sauber completed two days of tests with both Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger present. The German was once again much quicker than the Austrian, "HH" recording a lap of 1m31.06s and Wendlinger 1m32.64s. The team headed back to Switzerland on Wednesday night.

Ligier ran one car for three days. On the first day of the test Olivier Panis recorded a 1m32.12s before handing over to Martin Brundle who tested on Wednesday and Thursday, setting a best lap of 1m31.70s. The team packed up on Thursday to get out of Italy - and avoid any of its equipment being seized - before a judge in Ravenna sat to consider a law suit against Ligier and Mugen on Friday morning.

Local heroes Minardi also spent three days testing; Pierluigi Martini, Luca Badoer and test driver Giancarlo Fisichella each having one day in the car.

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