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Testing activity

ALL the major Formula 1 teams have been busy testing in recent days in preparation for the World Championship decider in Suzuka at the end of the month. And it is not just McLaren and Ferrari which have been concentrating on set-up for the Japanese GP as the lively battle for third place in the Constructors' Championship between Williams, Benetton and Jordan remains open.

Ferrari concentrated its efforts on testing at Mugello, the hilly sweeping track near Florence being similar in character to Suzuka. Testing began on Tuesday and by Thursday evening Michael Schumacher had completed 230 laps of the 3.2 mile track. His fastest time was a 1m27.586s. This was beaten by Eddie Irvine on Wednesday when the Ulsterman lapped the track in 1m26.270s. During his three days of running Irvine completed only 118 laps being delayed by transmission trouble. Irvine tried a different seating arrangement in an effort to solve the back problems he has been having.

Much of the testing was used to try new tire compounds and because the team needed to try wet rubber it was decided to flood the track on Wednesday afternoon. This took 185,000 gallons from 25 tanker trucks.

McLaren chose to go to Barcelona where Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard completed around 500 laps of the track between them. They too spent a great deal of time on tire development although there were engine problems which caused some delay. Coulthard set the best time with a 1m20.161s, while Hakkinen contented himself with a best of 1m20.782s.

Benetton was also in Spain with Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz running on all three days of the test, the pair completing around 300 laps with Fisichella fastest with a best lap of 1m21.61s while Wurz's best was a 1m22.57s.

Williams decided to have a private test session at Magny-Cours with Heinz-Harald Frentzen doing a day and a half before handing over to test driver Juan-Pablo Montoya who stayed for a day and a half. The team gave no details of the test.

Jordan decided to stay in Britain and ran at Silverstone with Ralf Schumacher and Pedro de la Rosa completing around 200 laps as they worked on tire and aerodynamic development. The Spaniard set the fastest time with a best lap of 1m25.40s, while Schumacher's best was a 1m25.95s.

The Prost team continued its development work alongside McLaren and Benetton in Barcelona using both the AP01 and the modified AP01B. Both Jarno Trulli and Olivier Panis were in action on all three days and the pair completed around 200 laps, despite some engine trouble with Peugeot's latest development V10. Trulli set the faster time with a 1m23.38s while Panis did a 1m23.64s.

Arrows, Stewart and BAR were all running at Silverstone doing a variety of different development jobs for 1999. Arrows concentrated on engine development and Pedro Diniz was able to run a race distance with the promising D-spec Arrows V10 engine which the team hopes to race in Japan. Mika Salo was also in action but using an older engine.

Stewart ran Jos Verstappen and Formula 3 driver Luciano Burti while BAR concentrated on data collection with the Tyrrell-Mecachrome while checking out the electronic and hydraulic systems which will be on the BAR 199 when it appears for the first time in December. Jean-Christophe Boullion did the driving but slid off at one point when he suffered a hydraulic failure.

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