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Minardi bound for IDIADA?

THE latest rumors from the Minardi F1 team suggest that the long-awaited deal between the Italian team and the Spanish telecommunications company will go ahead after this week's election which is expected to return the existing government for a second four-year term of office. If everything goes to plan the go-ahead will then be given for Joan Villadelprat, formerly the operations director at Benetton, to begin work organizing the team at a new base inside the IDIADA automotive testing facility at Santa Oliva, close to the Mediterranean coast between Barcelona and Tarragona.

The 800-acre proving ground features eight different test tracks and a variety of facilities (including a crash test laboratory and a computer simulation department) which would make it a good location for a Formula 1 team headquarters.

The $100m testing facility is controlled by the Government of Catalonia and was largely funded by European Union money. The test tracks were finished in 1995 and were used briefly for testing by the McLaren team in 1995 and 1996.

Our sources say that in recent months there have been bids from both the Catalan and Valencia regional governments to attract the team but the Catalans won because IDIADA was offering better facilities, which are likely to include a large factory and probably a windtunnel. IDIADA does not currently have a windtunnel on site and it would make sense for such an investment.

The proving ground is protected by a variety of high security measures in order to guarantee maximum privacy for automobile companies wanting to use the facility. The tracks are all covered by closed-circuit television and have emergency vehicles and staff housed in a central control tower.

The whole facility is only 45 minutes from Barcelona and Villadelprat seems to think that he will be able to attract all the necessary technicians to work there.

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