Interim test cars coming from McLaren and Williams

THE McLaren-Mercedes and BMW Williams team are busy preparing uprated versions of their 2001 cars in readiness for the resumption of F1 testing from 3 January and in anticipation of a frenzied build-up to the first race of the new season.

McLaren's priority is to start testing Michelin tires for the first time and to this end the team will be using an uprated version of the MP4/16 until the MP4/17 is available towards the end of January.

"The MP4/16B gives us a useful benchmark to start our test program with bearing in mind the data base we have built up about the performance of the (Bridgestone) tires we have used in the past," said Martin Whitmarsh, managing director of McLaren International.

"The B-spec car will have slightly different rear-end treatment, and the test team will have two of these cars from the start of the year. The MP4/17s will be fed through to the test team in due course."

The new Mercedes-Benz V10 engine for 2002 was this week close to running for the first time on the dynamometer at the Brixworth headquarters of Ilmor Engineering. Alexander Wurz will share the testing program with race drivers David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen while Darren Turner is strongly tipped to continue as a member of the test team, although this has yet to be confirmed.

Meanwhile BMW Williams will field an interim FW23C chassis which will start testing at Barcelona on 8 January. "This will have the 2002 BMW engine and gearbox installed in the 2001 chassis," said technical director Patrick Head. "The FW24 will be unveiled towards the end of January." Head confirmed that work was proceeding satisfactorily at both Munich and the team's race headquarters at Grove, near Oxford. "BMW is flat-out developing the new engine and we're flat out on the new chassis," he said.

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