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Testing for Monaco

THE Formula 1 teams split up last week and went off to prepare for Monaco at a variety of different circuits around Europe. Ferrari and Minardi were in action at Fiorano; McLaren and Prost ran at Magny-Cours; Benetton tested at Barcelona, although the track was modified with some traffic cone chicanes; Jordan shared Lurcy-Levis with the Honda F1 operation and Williams, Stewart, BAR and Sauber went to the Circuit Paul Armagnac at Nogaro, in south-west France. Only the Arrows team did no testing at all, the cars running only at a shakedown test at the Santa Pod drag strip in England.

Ferrari began work on Tuesday with Eddie Irvine driving. After two days of wet and dry running Irvine had completed 101 laps (186 miles). On Wednesday he was joined at the track by Luca Badoer who completed 32 laps in his long wheelbase Minardi. The following day Badoer has changed driving suits and cars and was testing for Ferrari, running alongside Michael Schumacher. Both used F399 chassis with Badoer doing general development work, while Schumacher concentrated on Monaco set-up. Badoer did 38 laps and then stopped running, returning on Saturday to shakedown cars for Monaco, while Schumacher ran Thursday and Friday, completing 140 laps (260 miles).

At Magny-Cours McLaren ran into more engine problems with Mika Hakkinen's running being curtailed by an engine blow-up which meant that he completed only 21 laps in the course of the two days. At the same time the team's test driver Nick Heidfeld was able to do a total of 90 laps of the track in an old MP4/13. David Coulthard took over from Hakkinen on the third day. Prost ran only one car for a day with Olivier Panis doing 32 laps before he suffered a hydraulic failure. Jarno Trulli then took over but did only seven laps before the testing ended for the day.

At nearby Lurcy-Levis British driver Andrew Gilbert-Scott did aerodynamic mapping runs for Jordan, sharing the airfield with the Honda Racing Developments prototype chassis, driven by Jos Verstappen.

Benetton went by itself to Barcelona to try out some new development bits away from prying eyes and refused to issue any details of the testing undertaken. All that is known is that the track was fitted with traffic cone chicanes to simulate Monaco.

The major test of the week took place at the little-known Nogaro circuit in the Armagnac region of south-western France. This is a twisty and bumpy track with the walls close to the circuit - but it also features two long straights. In order to meet FIA safety it has to be run with two chicanes to slow the cars down as they go through the final 180-degree corner which has no run-off.

The testing began on Thursday with Williams and Sauber both in operation and they were joined on Friday by BAR and Stewart. Sauber ran on all three days with a single chassis for Pedro Diniz, who did a lot of laps and set a best time on the final day of 1m17.281s. This was beaten on that final day by the BAR of Mika Salo. The Finn ran on Friday and Saturday and completed a total of 110 laps of the track. Jacques Villeneuve ran the same number of laps, his best lap being a 1m17.916s, the fifth fastest time of the test.

The third and fourth fastest laps went to the two Stewart-Ford drivers with Rubens Barrichello being beaten on this occasion by Johnny Herbert who lapped the track in 1m17.626s compared to the Brazilian's 1m17.776s.

The Williams team ran only on Thursday and Friday and so was not present when the track was at its fastest. Ralf Schumacher completed a total of 90 laps with a best of 1m18.92s while Alex Zanardi did 82 laps with a best of 1m19.36s.

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