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Paul Ricard day three - BMW best Renault 19 May 2006

Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) BMW Sauber Formula One Testing, Paul Ricard HTTT, France. 16 May 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton

Jacques Villeneuve gave BMW Sauber a pre-Monaco boost as he topped the Thursday testing times at Paul Ricard. With the track switched to its longer and faster ‘1E SC’ layout, Villeneuve clocked a best lap of 1m 25.379s, a quarter of a second up on Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen.

Like most of the teams present, BMW Sauber used the longer layout to focus on Canadian Grand Prix preparations. Villeneuve and team mate Robert Kubica, fourth fastest, carried out aero and tyre work for the Montreal race.

Pedro de la Rosa put McLaren third, with fellow tester Gary Paffett finishing eighth. Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest behind Kubica, thought the world champion only ran in the morning session.

Red Bull concluded their Paul Ricard programme with David Coulthard and Robert Doornbos sixth and ninth respectively. "Today was hectic as we packed in Canadian tyre choice work, car set-up and development work," commented the team’s chief test engineer, Ian Morgan.

"Over the three days, we learnt quite a bit about the car which will serve us well over the next couple of races, however, problems with engines and some development parts on the gearbox meant we did not complete as many laps as we would have liked."

Neel Jani was on track for sister team Toro Rosso, who also wrapped up their testing for the week. "The same chassis and engine was used for all three days and it was good to get so much distance under our belt," said their chief engineer, Laurent Mekies. "It was encouraging that, after a couple of reliability problems in Spain, the car ran trouble-free here in what was virtually a two race distance simulation."

Toyota completed the Thursday line-up with Ricardo Zonta (seventh) and Olivier Panis (11th) taking over from Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli at the wheel of the latest TF106B, which is due to make its race debut in Monaco next weekend.

Testing concludes at Paul Ricard on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday times from Paul Ricard:
1. Jacques Villeneuve, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:25.379
2. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:25.736
3. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:25.834
4. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:25.931
5. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:26.033
6. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:26.172
7. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:26.261
8. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:26.443
9. Robert Doornbos, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:26.498
10. Neel Jani, Toro Rosso (Michelin), 1:26.668
11. Olivier Panis, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:27.037