Private test review - McNish goes out on top 10 Oct 2003
As anticipated, Renault dominated this morning's session of private testing at Suzuka, probably the last of its kind as the regulations are expected to preclude such activity in 2004.
As usual the team had its three drivers, Allan McNish joining Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso for the last time before Frenchman Franck Montagny replaces him as official tester. Trulli went off the road briefly in the entry to the chicane in the first hour, while McNish showed no long-term after-effects of his massive 69g shunt at the 130R corner in the Toyota last year. The Scot had a point to prove and set the initial pace with a lap of 1m 32.429s. Later he improved to 1m 32.170s to remain quickest, though his engine broke going into the hairpin with five minutes to go.
Trulli and Alonso vied for second, the Spaniard eventually lapping in 1m 32.367s, the Italian 1m 32.891s.
Jordan again had three drivers, but this time Formula Nippon star Satoshi Motoyama, courtesy of Bridgestone, lined up alongside regulars Giancarlo Fisichella and Ralph Firman, who has plenty of experience of the track since his own Nippon days. Fisichella was the fastest of the three most of the time before Firman put in a late run to improve to 1m 34.054s which boosted him temporarily to fifth until Fisichella's 1m 33.497s pushed him back a place. They eventually finished fourth and sixth. Motoyama did not shine perhaps as much as might have been expected, given his knowledge of the circuit, but posted a late improvement to 1m 35.044s for eighth best time.
Justin Wilson, who had no previous experience of the track, recorded a time of 1m 35.795s after 15 laps to oust Jaguar team-mate Mark Webber from fourth place early on. The Australian later hit his stride to lap in 1m 33.897s which left him fourth fastest until the Jordans went quicker. He ended his morning a frustrated fifth. Wilson improved to 1m 34.297s which was fifth for a while, and seventh overall.
Minardi also ran three cars, with Gianmaria Bruni taking the third seat alongside Jos Verstappen and Nicolas Kiesa. Verstappen had a dusty moment at Turn 8 but cut down to 1m 35.579s for the eighth best time, just ahead of Bruni who was again in very good form to lap in 1m 35.695s. Kiesa was the 11th and last on 1m 36.558s.