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Encouraging first test for new McLaren 10 Jan 2008

Test driver Pedro de la Rosa debuts the new McLaren MP4-23 at Jerez, Spain, January 9, 2008. © McLaren Heikki Kovalainen prepares to make his debut for the McLaren team at Jerez, Spain, January 9, 2008. © McLaren Test driver Pedro de la Rosa debuts the new McLaren MP4-23 at Jerez, Spain, January 9, 2008. © McLaren

Following its launch earlier this week, the McLaren MP4-23 made its track debut at Jerez in southern Spain on Wednesday. The team’s new race driver, Heikki Kovalainen, and tester Pedro de la Rosa sampled the 2008 car, and both came away impressed.

“The first impressions of the new car are good,” said Kovalainen after his first track session as a McLaren driver. “We have a comprehensive development schedule to work through over the next couple of months. The car’s performance today is definitely an encouraging starting point.

“I always really enjoy the first day a new car runs, there is always a very unique atmosphere, you know a little bit tense, a little bit excited. Today was also my first real opportunity to meet the test team, which was good because we will be spending a lot of time together over the next few weeks!”

This week’s McLaren test is a private session, allowing the team to achieve their filming and photographic requirements with the MP4-23 alongside the team’s test programme, which will focus on familiarisation with the car and running through a range of installation and set-up checks.

“We covered 69 laps in total today between Heikki and me, which is a good start,” said De la Rosa. “The car felt positive and it has been an encouraging day. This is the second time I have had the opportunity to make the track debut with our new car, it is also the eighth car I have driven for the team. It is great for me to be in the car from the very beginning, as I am able to instantly build up an understanding of the car and how it works, and then start to put this knowledge into the testing programme.

“This time of the season, from when a new car is launched until the first race, is probably the busiest time of the year for the test team. We have 18 track days scheduled, including today, before the MP4-23s leave for Australia and a lot of work to complete in that time, but the motivation is huge with all the guys here.”

De la Rosa clocked the day’s best time, a 1m 19.655, while Kovalainen’s quickest was a 1m 20.559s. On Thursday Lewis Hamilton will get his first taste of the MP4-23 and the team will continue to test privately on Friday. Next week they remain at Jerez for a three-day multi-team session from Monday.