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The new Minardi runs at Mugello

THE revamped Minardi team revealed its M197 at Monza on Tuesday and then headed straight to Mugello to begin testing the new car, which will be powered by Brian Hart's V8 engines and will run on Bridgestone tires.

The testing was badly affected by the weather with Ukyo Katayama managing to complete only eight shakedown laps of the Ferrari testing facility because of heavy rain on Wednesday. The rain continued on Thursday morning but in the afternoon the skies cleared and Katayama - who has brought the team considerable finance from Mild Seven - completed 28 laps with a best time of 1m32.820s. On Friday morning Ukyo completed more laps, getting down to 1m30.40s - the fastest ever lap time around the track by a Minardi - before handing over the car to his team mate Jarno Trulli. The young Italian did 18 laps, concentrating on getting to know the car and avoiding making mistakes rather than going for lap times. The test was then stopped early after gearbox troubles which followed Trulli practicing starts.

The team left Mugello upbeat with Katayama delighted with the new car. "It is the best car I have ever driven," he commented. "It has very smooth handling and a really impressive engine."

Giancarlo Minardi was also happy. "Ukyo beat our previous Mugello record without any changes to the aerodynamic set-up and using hard compound Bridgestone tires. That's not bad. We expected more problems than we actually had."

The little Italian team is now headed to Estoril where it will join the big test beginning at the end of this week.

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