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Bridgestone testing begins

ON Tuesday at Suzuka, Bridgestone will begin its Formula 1 track testing using up-to-date machinery. Immediately after the Spanish GP at Barcelona members of the Arrows team were due to depart for Japan where Jos Verstappen is to run a car in a secret closed testing session at the Suzuka circuit. The team is expected to run an all-white car without any sponsorship on it.

The sensational news about the test is that the team will not be running an Arrows-Hart chassis but a 1995 Ligier which will be powered by one of last year's Mugen Honda V10 engines. This strange arrangement has come about without Ligier being directly involved because Walkinshaw kept a Ligier show car when he split with the team a few months ago. This has been made raceworthy at TWR's Leafield base and will now stay in Japan for the Bridgestone testing program over the next few months.

There was some doubt on Sunday as to whether Verstappen would actually agree to the test as he is currently in dispute with the Arrows management about a contract for next year, with Walkinshaw believed to be suggesting that he sign now for 1997 or risk losing his drive this year. Verstappen is willing to sign, but he wants to be well paid because he has other offers for next year from other teams, notably Jordan and Benetton. Walkinshaw wants Verstappen to sign up now so that he can dedicate himself to the tire development program.

Walkinshaw himself is due to go to Japan at the end of this week for talks with Mugen about a supply of engines for next year and may also have meetings with Honda about 1998 and beyond.

Walkinshaw is keen to get his whole program in place as fast as possible but there is little pressure on Honda to make any decisions at this early stage - the Japanese are expected to wait at least until Renault decides whether to continue in F1 in 1998 before committing itself to a midfield team.

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