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Valencia Test Day One - Gene leads the way 28 Jan 2004

Marc Gene (ESP) Williams BMW FW26 has his first run in the new FW26. Formula One Testing, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, 19-23 January 2004

This week's three-day Valencia test kicked off on Tuesday and it was Williams' Marc Gene who topped the timesheets, just two tenths of a second ahead of the Ferrari of world champion Michael Schumacher.

Williams had Gene and Juan Pablo Montoya in action, both using FW26 chassis. Gene's day comprised tyre and traction control work, while Montoya focussed on mechanical set-up and aerodynamics, in particular the car's new front wing. Between them the pair put in over 150 laps. Ralf Schumacher will join Williams' session on Wednesday, along with Antonio Pizzonia, who will make his testing return amid media speculation that he is being lined up as a second full-time tester for the BMW-powered squad.

At Ferrari Michael Schumacher was driving with two F2003-GAs at his disposal. The team's technical programme for the day centred on tyre testing, set-up work and electronics. The German covered a total of 115 laps, as he narrowly edged Montoya into third place.

Felipe Massa started Sauber's test and went fourth fastest, despite a minor off during the morning. "Today we have done the roll-out of the second chassis C23-02, which basically means that we are testing with a new car this week," explained Chief Race Engineer, Jacky Eeckelaert. "Although it's been quite windy today which made it sometimes difficult to drive we completed our scheduled programme without any technical problems and the new chassis proved to be reliable.

"In the morning we focused on set-up work and continued with Bridgestone tyre construction tests in the afternoon. We also undertook some cooling checks concerning hot weather races. Tomorrow we have planned to continue our Bridgestone work which will be on the schedule on each test day. Further to this we will conduct brake evaluations and test new aerodynamic parts."

Renault's Jarno Trulli and Franck Montagny were fifth and seventh fastest respectively, as the French team continued development of the R24. Between them was the Toyota TF104 of Olivier Panis, while Ricardo Zonta was 11th in the older TF103.

There was little to separate the BARs of Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato in eighth and ninth, both men focussing on tyres in hybrid 005s ahead of the 006's launch this weekend. Behind them was Mark Webber in the new Jaguar R5. The Australian will be joined by Formula 3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim on Wednesday, the Swede making his Jaguar debut.

Rounding out the timesheets was Minardi' Gianmaria Bruni, as the Faenza-based squad started their first test of the year. Using an interim PS03 chassis, Bruni worked through a busy programme, assessing the hardware and software for the team's 2004 car. "I am pretty satisfied with the first day of testing here in Valencia," said Bruni. "The car is much better than (at the last test) in Vallelunga, and this means the guys have done an excellent job preparing the PS04 chassis. I am very happy and looking forward to tomorrow, when we plan to do some long runs, as well on concentrate on the new software for 2004."

Conditions at Valencia were predominantly sunny, but with strong winds. Track temperatures peaked at around 23 degrees Celsius. Testing continues at the circuit until Thursday.

Unofficial Tuesday times from Valencia:
1. Marc Gene, Williams (Michelin), 1:10.198
2. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:10.392
3. Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (Michelin), 1:10.466
4. Felipe Massa, Sauber (Bridgestone), 1:11.209
5. Jarno Trulli, Renault (Michelin), 1:11.375
6. Olivier Panis, Toyota (Michelin), 1:11.770
7. Franck Montagny, Renault (Michelin), 1:11.778
8. Anthony Davidson, BAR (Michelin), 1:12.094
9. Takuma Sato, BAR (Michelin), 1:12.193
10. Mark Webber, Jaguar (Michelin), 1:12.322
11. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Michelin), 1:12.762
12. Gianmaria Bruni, Minardi (Bridgestone), 1:12.903