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Hill flies at Barcelona

DAMON HILL continued his testing work at Barcelona last week, demolishing Michael Schumacher's pole position time from last year's Spanish Grand Prix, with an impressive lap of 1m20.90s - over half a second faster than Schumacher's 1m21.452s pole.

Hill tested on Tuesday and Wednesday and dominated the test throughout. He is believed to have been working with a new Renault RS8 V10 engine. Damon's 1996 team mate Jacques Villeneuve did only the first day of the test - his first visit to the Barcelona circuit - and recorded a sensible time of 1m21.69s. The two Williams-Renaults were well clear of the opposition.

Benetton's test got off to a bad start on Monday when Gerhard Berger crashed heavily, the Austrian's third big accident in a B195 in as many weeks. Gerhard was unhurt but took no further part in the test, leaving Jean Alesi to do the engine work. In the course of the three days, Alesi's best time was a 1m22.15s, while Berger was credited with a best of 1m23.14s before his accident.

Ligier was out testing for the first time this winter with, as expected, Olivier Panis and Pedro Diniz. Panis did all three days of the test, working on engine development. He set a fastest lap of 1m23.05s. Diniz had a couple of offs during his two days running and did not take part on the third day. His fastest lap was a 1m24.13s.

Forti was the only other team in action, testing out its semi-automatic gearbox system with Andrea Montermini driving. The Italian's best lap was a 1m29.09s.

Jordan was in action at Jerez with Martin Brundle running for three days, doing endurance runs, chassis and differential work. He completed 200 laps and pronounced himself happy with the work done. On the third day of the test Martin was joined by Frenchman Emmanuel Collard, who did a series of engine-mapping tests for Peugeot.

At Paul Ricard, Heinz-Harald Frentzen did a couple of days of running, testing electronic systems before handing over to new Sauber signing Johnny Herbert on Wednesday afternoon. The team gave Johnny a brief run and then packed up and headed for home.

There is not expected to be any testing now until after the Christmas holiday - although many F1 factories will continue to buzz right through the holiday period as the composite layout men work on chassis and parts for the 1996 cars.

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