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BAR Duo Dominate at Paul Ricard

The BAR-Honda team dominated the second day of testing at the Paul Ricard circuit, with Japanese driver Takuma Sato setting a new track record

Sato and teammate Jenson Button tested the new aerodynamic package the team hope will help them make a step forward following a poor start to their season.

After Button set a new unofficial record at Barcelona last week, today it was Sato who set a new benchmark on the 3E configuration of the French track with a best lap of 1:02.839 on a day with near perfect weather conditions.

Teammate Button, who suffered an engine problem during the day, was second quickest less than three tenths of a second behind the Japanese driver.

Antonio Pizzonia was third fastest for Williams, the Brazilian completing long runs as he focused on tyre evaluation for the San Marino Grand Prix.

Williams' day, however, was affected by the early departure of Nick Heidfeld, who was forced to head home after hurting his back while trying to correct a snap-oversteer moment. The German had just completed seven laps.

Giancarlo Fisichella and Franck Montagny were the men in charge of testing duties for the Renault team, with the Italian finishing as fourth quickest while Montagny was ninth.

Toyota were again focusing on a host of improvements to their TF105 car. Test driver Ricardo Zonta was running with a new diffuser that the team will use at Imola while Olivier Panis spent the day evaluating new suspension systems that should appear later in the season.

Speaking to Autosport-Atlas, Panis said he believed that the team had learned several valuable lessons that would help their chances of maintaining their current form in the San Marino Grand Prix.

"We have found something in the suspension which may be of some use for Imola," said Panis, who is well aware how troublesome previous Toyota cars have been at dealing with kerbs. "We will find out with the aero package, and the tyres are okay.

"The only thing you have to be careful with is that Imola is different to Paul Ricard. Here we have to worry about graining but you do not in Imola, so the spec which is good here may be a bit too hard for Imola."

Although Toyota ran out of time to get their latest front wing specification ready for the Paul Ricard test, team insiders have confirmed that they will still run the full new aero package at Imola.

McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa, quickest on Wednesday, had a less productive session today after being hit by mechanical problems that cut his running short. Teammate Alexander Wurz, like de la Rosa working on fine-tuning the set-up for Imola, had a more productive session and covered 139 laps.

Indian Narain Karthikeyan was the busiest man on track today, completing a massive 183 laps at the wheel of the Jordan-Toyota.

Toyota, BAR and Williams have all decided to end their tests today, with rain predicted to hit Paul Ricard on Friday. The strict 30-day testing limit, which the teams are still intending to stick to, means they are all reluctant to waste days by having to run in the rain.

Today's times:

Pos  Driver        Team-Engine         Tyres  Time     Laps
 1.  Sato           BAR-Honda            (M)  1:02.839  179
 2.  Button         BAR-Honda            (M)  1:03.093  177
 3.  Pizzonia       Williams-BMW         (M)  1:03.240  155
 4.  Panis          Toyota               (M)  1:03.312  163
 5.  Fisichella     Renault              (M)  1:03.554  120
 6.  Zonta          Toyota               (M)  1:03.567  179
 7.  Wurz           McLaren-Mercedes     (M)  1:03.790  139
 8.  de la Rosa     McLaren-Mercedes     (M)  1:03.863   89
 9.  Montagny       Renault              (M)  1:04.017  151
10.  Karthikeyan    Jordan-Toyota        (B)  1:05.816  183
11.  Heidfeld       Williams-BMW         (M)  1:06.474    7

All Timing Unofficial

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