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Testing around Europe

THERE was plenty of testing action last week with work going on at Monza, Silverstone, Mugello and Fiorano. Ferrari, Williams and Stewart were all at Monza, where Jacques Villeneuve emerged fastest of the testing using the latest evolution of the Renault RS9 engine, which is obviously better than the unit currently being raced. Villeneuve did only one day of the test, completing 62 laps and setting a best lap of 1m23.90s. Heinz-Harald Frentzen who did the first two days of the test clocked a best of 1m24.77s after completing 100 laps. Jean-Christophe Boullion continued his testing work with the team, completing 150 laps with a best of 1m25.34s.

Eight thousand spectators turned up for the test to watch Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari. The German did four days of running - extended from the planned three because of engine trouble - completing over 200 laps as he concentrated on doing race distances with the latest evolution of the 046/2 engine. This has only been used at certain races because its fuel consumption is marginal at some tracks but the team hopes that modifications will enable them to run it all the time and thus boost Schumacher's championship challenge. Michael's best lap was a 1m24.85s.

Stewart also turned up at Monza with Jan Magnussen and Rubens Barrichello each having a day in the car. Magnussen did tire testing, setting a best time of 1m25.73s, while Barrichello did chassis set-up work and lapped Monza in 1m25.15s.

Ferrari had a simultaneous test going at Fiorano, where Eddie Irvine spent three days doing set-up work with the F310B, completing 200 laps of the Ferrari test track. Nicola Larini was called in at the weekend to shakedown the cars which will be used at the Belgian GP.

Sauber and Prost ran at Mugello while Benetton, McLaren, Jordan, Tyrrell and Arrows were in all action at Silverstone. It was Jean Alesi who emerged with the fastest time of the three-day test, lapping the track in 1m23.57s after 70 laps, during which he concentrated on suspension development. He was partnered on all three days by the team's test driver AlexanderÊWurz who completed around the same number of laps while doing engine development work and recorded a best lap of 1m24.19s.

Second fastest of the test was Jordan-Peugeot driver Ralf Schumacher who completed 70 laps of chassis set-up in preparation for the Belgian GP, recording a best of 1m24.15s. Formula 3000 Championship leader Ricardo Zonta of Brazil - who will do seven days of testing for the Jordan team this summer - began work on development of the Jordan 1998-spec car, running for two days and completing 66 laps with a best of 1m31.08s.

McLaren had a pair of MP4-12s and a 1998-spec car available for Mika Hakkinen and test driver Nick Heidfeld. Hakkinen set a best lap of 1m24.60s after 60 laps in this year's car and then switched into the 1998 car and did 50 laps with a fastest lap of 1m27.34s. Heidfeld recorded a best of 1m25.13s.

Arrows ran Jorg Muller, Pedro Diniz and Damon Hill on consecutive days, Hill setting the fastest lap of the three with a best of 1m24.21s. Diniz lapped in 1m24.82s and Muller recorded a 1m27.56s having been stopped by a gearbox problem.

Tyrrell turned up for the final day of the test, giving Jos Verstappen 35 laps in the 1998-spec Tyrrell 025X test car. He recorded a best lap of 1m28.74s.

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