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Fisichella shows Sauber promise at Valencia 16 Jan 2004

Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber C23, Valencia testing, 14 January 2004

The Sauber C23 began to show its potential on Thursday as Giancarlo Fisichella pushed the new car to within half a second of the unofficial lap record at Valencia.

Fisichella put in 80 laps of the Spanish circuit, recording a best time of 1m 10.530s. It was only the second day of testing for the C23, which is powered by a Petronas-badged, 2004-spec Ferrari V10.

"I must say that I'm very happy," reported Fisichella. "Usually it is difficult to do a lot of laps with a new car as there are often some problems here and there. But this was not the case today. Our absolutely highest target was to reach a lap time of 1:10.5 - and we achieved it!

"The car is good and I can feel that there is quite some potential. Still, I need to get more confident with it and we need to do more set-up work, but that's normal. Overall it's a good feeling to drive this car."

Sauber spent much of the day working with tyre suppliers Bridgestone, testing different tyre constructions to find one which enhanced the C23's handling balance. Experimentation with set-up was also an important part of the Swiss team's programme as they assessed the new car's sensitivity to parameter changes.

"80 laps without technical problems, a quick lap time and a car that feels good - what else can you ask of the Sauber Petronas C23 on its second day on the track?" said a delighted Jacky Eeckelaert, Sauber's chief race engineer. "For us it is a really good result and we are happy with the outcome."

Felipe Massa was also on track at Valencia, using last year's car to set a best time of 1m 11.960s after 53 laps. "Felipe tested a new damper system with the C22, which had previously been evaluated on our seven-post rig in Hinwil," explained Eeckelaert. "Its characteristics enhance traction and we will apply it to the C23 and assess it further in our forthcoming tests."

Massa will get his first taste of the C23 on Friday when Sauber will continue their Bridgestone tyre programme at Valencia.