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Silverstone testing

THERE were three days of testing last week at Silverstone with all 11 Formula 1 teams making an appearance at the track which will host the British GP next weekend. The tests were somewhat disrupted by bad weather but provided enough dry running to give an indication as to how competitive individual teams will be at the British GP.

Fastest of the week was Jacques Villeneuve. The French-Canadian did just two days of running but completed 116 laps of the heavily-revised 3.19 miles circuit, with a best time of 1m22.19s. His Williams team mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen ran on all three days, setting the fourth fastest time of 1m22.71s during his 133 laps. The team's test driver Jean-Christophe Boullion did the first day of the test, standing in for Villeneuve, but managed only 10 laps before being sidelined by an engine problem. The team concentrated on set-up work and on tire testing for Goodyear.

Second fastest of the test was McLaren-Mercedes driver David Coulthard who recorded a best of 1m22.40s after 134 laps, while Mika Hakkinen did 104 laps with a best of 1m22.97s. The two drivers continued their search for a cure to the MP4-12's handling imbalance in high-speed corners.

The team ran a second test at Lurcy-Levis in France, British F3 Champion Oliver Gavin working in a MP4-12 and Darren╩Turner running one of last year's MP4/11s.

Jean Alesi set the third fastest time of the test with a best of 1m22.50s after 147 laps. Gerhard Berger was again absent from the test and looks likely to miss Silverstone. The team's reserve driver Alexander Wurz continued his F1 learning experience, completing 120 laps with a best lap of 1m23.98s. Wurz did not try to go for times.

Ralf Schumacher was fifth quickest for Jordan, completing 85 laps - including a spin into a sandtrap - record a best lap of 1m22.71s. He was joined by team mate Giancarlo Fisichella who did development work with a new version of the Peugeot╩V10 engine and the team's electronic differential. Giancarlo ran 110 laps with a best of 1m22.77s, fractionally slower than Schumacher.

Ferrari made a rare visit to Silverstone - only the team's second of the year - and both Michael Schumacher and Eddie╩Irvine concentrated on set-up and developing the new front wing, raced by Schumacher in France. Michael completed 150 laps with a best lap of 1m22.80s while Irvine completed 120 laps with a best of 1m22.99s.

Sauber ran only Johnny Herbert, but the Englishman completed a massive test of 200 laps on his way to a best time of 1m23.03s, Johnny reporting that the car was very good through the fast flowing corners.

Prost Grand Prix came over from France and ran two cars for all three days of the test. Jarno Trulli completed 100 laps with a best time of 1m22.86s, while Shinji Nakano did 110 setting a fastest time of 1mm23.77s. Both drivers were using the latest version of the Mugen Honda V10 engine.

The Stewart team was also in action for the whole test but did not have an easy time. Rubens Barrichello had a rear suspension failure on Thursday which led to a big accident at Stowe corner. Despite this Rubens managed to complete 125 laps over the three days - with a best of 1m23.60s. Jan Magnussen did only 70 laps with a fastest lap of 1m24.14s.

Arrows ran Damon Hill on all three days of the test, the World Champion completing 122 laps with a best time of 1m23.64s while Pedro Diniz joined him for the second and third days during which he did 67 laps and set a best time of 1m24.24s. The team continued to suffer engine problems.

Minardi turned up with one car which Tarso Marques drove for the first two days of the test before handing over to Ukyo╩Katayama. Tarso crashed after only 11 laps on the first day, as the result of a left rear suspension failure and with rain disrupting running on Thursday he completed only 42 laps, his best time being an unrepresentative 1m26.67s while Ukyo tested Bridgestone tires on the final day, completing 46 laps with a best of 1m24.44s.

Tyrrell showed up for the last two days of the test with Mika Salo testing on both days but Jos Verstappen missing the first because he still has a stiff neck as a result of his accident during the French GP. Mika ran a normal car and a car modified for the 1998 regulations, completing 115 laps with a fastest lap of 1m25.31s while Verstappen completed only 35 laps with a best of 1m25.45s.

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