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Valencia day three - Red Bull on a charge 28 Jan 2005

David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB01. Formula One Testing, Barcelona, Spain, 19 January 2005. World © McNeil/Sutton

David Coulthard was the man in front on Thursday as Red Bull Racing led the way in Formula One testing at Valencia. Coulthard was within two tenths of the track’s unofficial lap record as he outgunned the Williams of Antonio Pizzonia. The Scot's Red Bull team mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, was third fastest.

The tumbling lap times were thanks in part to the improvement in weather conditions. Although temperatures remained around freezing for much of the session, the strong winds that had blighted previous days dropped significantly.

Pizzonia completed Williams’ three-day programme, adding another 97 laps to his total for the week. He was joined by BMW’s reigning European Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx, enjoying his first Formula One test. The British driver completed 64 laps in the FW26.

“In the weeks before the test, I did special exercises under the guidance of a physiotherapist in order to prepare my neck muscles,” explained Priaulx. “It was worth every effort, as my neck hasn't hurt at all.

“A few weeks ago, I also arranged a test with my former Formula 3 team to refresh my left-food-braking, I'm pleased I did! I'd like to have achieved a better lap time, but, just as I went out on fresh tyres, testing was interrupted due to an incident by someone else on the track.”

Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest as he completed a third day at the wheel of the new Renault R25, after restricted running earlier in the week. He began working on set-up changes with the car, and assessing its behaviour on longer runs. This allowed the team to begin establishing baseline knowledge about the new car.

Team mate Giancarlo Fisichella, seventh quickest, completed a final day at the wheel of the R24, with his main work being a race-distance run as part of a tyre development programme. He will drive the R25 on Friday.

“We made good progress with our programme today and began learning about the new car’s characteristics,” reported Renault’s chief test engineer Christian Silk. “At this stage, it is important to properly understand the effect of set-up changes and to establish references for our future work. With this in mind, it was encouraging to see the car perform consistently on long runs, and that Fernando was pleased with the handling. Giancarlo is looking forward to his first drive tomorrow.”

BAR again had two new 007 cars in action as the team continued work on chassis and tyre development. Takuma Sato was sixth fastest, despite an early engine failure, while Jenson Button, taking over from Anthony Davidson, was ninth.

At Toyota, Jarno Trulli took over from test driver Ricardo Zonta. The Italian was fifth fastest after close to 100 laps in the team’s 2005 machine, the TF105. Olivier Panis, also in the new car, finished eighth.

Testing is due to conclude at Valencia on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday times from Valencia:
1. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:09.170
2. Antonio Pizzonia, Williams (Michelin), 1:09.447
3. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:10.230
4. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:10.394
5. Jarno Trulli, Toyota (Michelin), 1:10.646
6. Takuma Sato, BAR (Michelin), 1:11.148
7. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:11.287
8. Olivier Panis, Toyota (Michelin), 1:11.456
9. Jenson Button, BAR (Michelin), 1:11.561
10. Andy Priaulx, Williams (Michelin), 1:12.790