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Last minute preparations for Suzuka

THE Formula 1 teams were in action again last week before their equipment had to be boxed up and sent out to Japan for the World╩Championship showdown at Suzuka and the ensuing Bridgestone test at the track.╩Ferrari and Sauber were both running at Mugello while Ferrari also felt the need for a simultaneous test at Fiorano. On Tuesday Michael Schumacher completed 76 laps at Mugello while Luca Badoer did 100 laps at Fiorano. Schumacher then went to Fiorano while Eddie╩Irvine took over at Mugello. On Thursday the Ulsterman went to Fiorano to do some more laps and to practice his starts - which will be vital at Suzuka where overtaking is not easy.

At Silverstone McLaren ran both David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen on Monday but neither did more than a handful of laps. In the course of his 13 laps Coulthard set the best time of the test at 1m26.22s. Hakkinen did 19 laps with a best of 1m27.48s. McLaren then packed up leaving the other teams to run on Tuesday.

Rubens Barrichello ended up second fastest of the test with a lap on Tuesday of 1m26.39s in the course of 10 flying laps. The previous day when Barrichello did 49 laps he managed no better than a 1m28.50s. Also testing for Stewart was British Formula 3 Champion Mario Haberfeld who completed 35 laps with a best of 1m28.65s.

Damon Hill ran on both days of the test, completing a total of 120 laps with a best lap of 1m26.83s in his Jordan-Mugen Honda, which was slightly faster than Jacques Villeneuve's best lap for Williams of 1m26.95s. The French-Canadian completed 50 laps on Tuesday, having taken over from the team's test driver Max Wilson who completed a similar number of laps on Monday with a best of 1m27.19s.

Benetton and Arrows chose to test only on Tuesday with Benetton running Giancarlo Fisichella, Alexander Wurz and Olivier Gavin. Fisichella completed 50 laps with a best of 1m27.48s while Wurz did a similar amount of running to record a best of 1m28.65s. Gavin did only three laps, presumably checking out the car for future testing duties.

Mika Salo was the only Arrows driver present and completed 21 laps with a best time of 1m28.16s. The team packed up and departed at lunchtime.

British American Racing's test team showed up for its last runs with the interim Tyrrell-Mecachrome car with which Jean-Christophe Boullion completed a total of 60 laps with a best of 1m29.20s. The team will not be seen again now until December when the BAR01 chassis is scheduled to run for the first time.

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