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MAY 18, 1998

The pace hots up in testing

THE Formula 1 teams have had a heavy testing schedule this year but it seems that the pressure of work is increasing as more teams have cars available to do development work. In recent days both Ferrari and Prost have conducted two simultaneous tests at different circuits as they try to close the gap on the opposition.

McLaren also ran at two tracks last week, starting work on Tuesday the Lurcy-Levis testing facility, not far from Magny-Cours in France. The F1 teams use the track - which features a long runway section - to do aerodynamic mapping tests. This work was carried out for McLaren by test driver Nick Heidfeld.

The McLaren test team then switched to nearby Magny-Cours with both Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard in action for three sunny and warm days. Coulthard set the fastest lap time of the week with a best of 1m17.32s in the course of his 170 laps of the 2.64 mile track. The Scot lost some time with a couple of small offs and with a hydraulic failure.

Hakkinen did over 200 laps of the track in his car to record a best lap of 1m17.53s which was three-tenths of a second faster than the best time achieved by Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine in the course of his three-day test.

Irvine completed 250 laps of the track in his Ferrari F300, setting a best time of 1m17.83s, while the team's test driver LucaƊBadoer and Michael Schumacher both worked at the Ferrari test track at Fiorano, working on the set-up for Monaco. Badoer completed 80 laps before handing over to Schumacher who ran from Thursday to Saturday, being joined on the final day of the test by Irvine, fresh from Magny-Cours. The main purpose of the Magny-Cours test was to try out new rubber which Goodyear intends to introduce at Monaco. Goodyear had three truckloads of tires at Magny-Cours.

Doing a lot of the Goodyear work were Williams drivers Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who each did two days of testing. Villeneuve completed a total of 125 laps with a best lap of 1m18.42s, while Frentzen did a total of 160 laps to record an almost identical time - 1m18.50s.

Also working with Goodyear on all four days was the Jordan team which had ran all four of its drivers once again. The test began on Tuesday with Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa completing 102 laps to record a best of 1m22.10s. On Wednesday both Ralf Schumacher and Juichi Wakisaki were in action and the German ran on both Thursday and Friday as well to complete a total of 150 laps with a best of 1m18.76s. Wakisaki did 50 laps with a best of 1m21.80s, before handing over to Damon Hill on Thursday. Damon completed 86 laps in a day and set a best time of 1m20.42s, leaving Schumacher to test alone on Friday morning.

Sauber Petronas was also given the chance to try to latest Goodyear rear tires with both Jean Alesi and Johnny Herbert each spending two days at the track. Alesi completed 76 laps with a best of 1m19.74s while Herbert did over 100 laps and recorded a best of 1m20.38s.

Prost Grand Prix had a brand new chassis and the team immediately set to work to try to close the gap on the frontrunners. Olivier Panis kicked off the testing at Magny-Cours on Tuesday and then went to Lurcy-Levis on Wednesday to do engine-mapping work. He then returned to Magny-Cours on Thursday morning for some more laps before handing over to Jarno Trulli at midday. His best time at Magny-Cours was 1m19.32s after 50 laps. Trulli did only 12 laps at Magny-Cours on Thursday before going off to Lurcy-Levis but returned on Friday and set a best time of 1m19.13s as he ran 55 laps with the new EV4 engine, a development gearbox and the latest Bridgestone tires.

Tyrrell ran for three days at Magny-Cours with Toranosuke Takagi completing 50 laps on the first day with a best lap of 1m20.14s before handing over to Ricardo Rosset on Wednesday and Thursday. The Brazilian completed a total of 80 laps with a best of 1m21.26s.

Benetton, Arrows, Minardi and Stewart all failed to appear for the Magny-Cours test. Benetton chose to head for southern Spain to run at Jerez de la Frontera. Traditionally this is a hot and dry place to test but on this occasion Benetton suffered as the test was disrupted by rain. The team ran Giancarlo Fisichella and test driver Jos Verstappen.

Arrows decided to stay in Barcelona after the other teams had headed for home and had a promising test with Mika Salo and Pedro Diniz both getting in much-needed lappery. The Finn ran on Tuesday and Wednesday and completed 82 laps while Pedro Diniz tested for three days completing 110 laps in total.

Minardi decided that it was best to prepare for Monaco at the twisty Ferrari testing circuit at Fiorano and ran Esteban Tuero on Friday for 59 laps and Shinji Nakano for 56 laps on Saturday. The team tried a new rear suspension geometry to make the car more stable under braking.

After its impressive fifth place in Spain, Stewart Grand Prix did not test, preferring to concentrate on working on the cars at the team's factory in Milton Keynes. This will be officially opened by the Princess Royal - a friend of Jackie Stewart - on Tuesday, June 30.