FEBRUARY 15, 1999
Meanwhile in South Africa
WHILE most of the Grand Prix teams have decided to stay in Europe, Williams Grand Prix Engineering and British American Racing sent their test teams to Kyalami, in South Africa, last week, with the intention of getting some warm-weather testing before the start of the season in Melbourne.
Williams flew out two cars to the test while BAR sent a single machine. The test began on Saturday and there were 27,000 spectators at the Johannesburg track to watch the action.
The test is an important one for Formula 1 as last autumn Bernie Ecclestone met the country's president Nelson Mandela and agreed a deal for South Africa to return to the Grand Prix calendar as soon as a slot is available. With the cancellation of the Argentine Grand Prix it is possible that Kyalami will be back on the F1 calendar next year.
As part of the deal with Mandela, Ecclestone agreed to hold a test at Kyalami in 1999. At the time he said that all the teams would be present but it seems that he was unable to convince most of the teams to make the trip.
The track was very dirty at the start of the test and so times were not very significant, although it should be noted that Ralf Schumacher's Williams clocked a 1m24.7s lap which was a second faster than the BAR driven by Jacques Villeneuve, which completed 56 laps of the track. The two cars are powered by the same Supertec V10 engine.
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