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Pre-Imola testing roundup 19 Apr 2004

Ryan Briscoe (AUS) Toyota Test driver.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 20 March 2004

Rain stops play on final day at Paul Ricard

Just two drivers recorded a time at Paul Ricard on Friday as heavy rain and strong winds brought a premature end to the week’s final day of testing at the French circuit.

Five drivers from three teams ventured out in the tricky conditions, but only Williams’ Antonio Pizzonia and Toyota’s Ryan Briscoe actually set times, both managing less than ten laps before deciding to join the others in abandoning their programmes.

For Williams, it was the end of a three-day schedule and Chief Operations Engineer Sam Michael was pleased with their progress. "Juan Pablo (Montoya) and Antonio were on testing duty for the team today, with both drivers completing some traction control work and practice starts in preparation for Imola,” he said. “However, strong wind and driving rain forced us to abandon running this afternoon.

“Overall, the test was quite useful as we managed to identify several set-up options for the forthcoming San Marino Grand Prix. We also verified some new directions on tyre compounds and casings with Michelin."

Friday was Briscoe’s fourth day in action for Toyota. "It's been a constructive test, and I completed over 100 laps on each of the first three days before the bad weather set in,” said the Australian. “On Tuesday we did a lot of long runs, working on tyre durability and set-ups for tyre wear, comparing different Michelin constructions. It went well but I had to stop early with a gearbox problem.

“We worked on engine braking and tyres on Wednesday, and I put in 128 laps on Thursday, continuing the work on engine braking and looking at some of our software systems. Finally, on Friday I did a short run but the wind was way too strong to make any real progress. This was only my second test on the TF104. We have only made small improvements so far, but we are heading in the right direction."

Toyota also completed a two-day test at Estoril in Portugal, with Ricardo Zonta running a total of 254 laps at the wheel of the TF103. "The last time I raced here was my first win in F3000 with Team Draco, so it was nice to return,” said the Brazilian. “There have been a few changes to some of the corners since then but the track has kept all of its character from before.

“We have done two days of intensive wet tyre testing and covered many kilometres in preparation for the Imola GP and for future development. The car has remained 100% reliable which is very important when you have such a concentrated programme to complete. I am glad to say we completed the programme and I hope that it will give us an advantage if we face damp or wet conditions for the forthcoming Imola GP - which the forecast currently predicts."

Takuma Sato took over from Jenson Button for BAR’s final day of testing at Paul Ricard ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix. In spite of the weather, Sato was able to complete nine starts and 10 laps during the morning session. And despite a disappointing end to the test, the team managed to collect significant aerodynamic and tyre data under more favourable conditions during the first two days.

BAR had also commenced a three-day aero test at the Vairano circuit in northern Italy on Wednesday with Anthony Davidson. Unfortunately, a fire caused by an oil leak caused extensive damage to the car and the remainder of the test had to be cancelled.

Elsewhere on Friday, it was the fifth and final day of testing of the week for Ferrari at the Fiorano circuit. Michael Schumacher was back on track at the wheel of an F2004. Their day was also affected by rain and so the work centred on testing wet weather tyres. Schumacher completed a total of 35 laps, three of them on the short version of the track, with a best time of 1m 00.860s.