BAR progress 'on target'

Jenson Button and BAR's pre-season preparations are going according to plan, the team's boss Nick Fry has told autosport, despite doubts about the team's overall speed that emerged after mixed results from last week's test at Jerez in Spain

BAR progress 'on target'

BAR's run at Jerez last week was marred by a series of accidents for Button and Takuma Sato and a lack of front-running lap times for the first few days, before Button himself responded by coming close to smashing the circuit's unofficial lap record on the final day of dry running.

And although the lack of results earlier in the week had prompted questions about the overall pace of the BAR007, especially with Sato less than complimentary about the grip levels being produced, Fry insists that the outfit never wavered in its belief about the new car.

"I think the point is that we were comfortable, like Ferrari, with what we were doing," Fry told autosport, claming comparisons to Ferrari's pre-season build up which has also been far from spectacular.

"But there comes a time when you have to turn the theory into practice, and we decided Friday morning to give Jenson a go. We were encouraged by the results."

Button's run on Friday was evidence that the team has the pace over a single lap to match Renault and Ferrari, and encouragement will be taken by the fact that further improvements will come at this week's secret Valencia test - where a new aerodynamic package and latest engine developments will be run.

Fry makes it clear, however, that the team is viewing this week's test as straightforward and not key to its hopes of winning races this year.

Speaking about Sato's comments that the BAR007 was suffering from a lack of grip, Fry was sympathetic to his driver's point of view but claimed the Japanese driver's perception may have something to do with the new aerodynamic regulations for 2005.

"You know, it's clear that the cars are not as easy to drive as they were, because they've got less downforce and are slightly less predicable," he said. "I don't think you'll find any driver who loves these things at the moment, so it's all relative. But I think we showed on Friday that with the type of fuel [levels] Renault was running earlier in the week, with the driver who we let loose, our car goes pretty quick."

Fry stressed that the team was concentrating largely on race distance testing to ascertain tyre and engine reliability, the latter seemingly a key focus for the team with respect to the new regulations, given that Honda has yet to reach the required 1300km engine life needed to last two race weekends. Despite this, Fry is "comfortable" with the engine programme to date.

Asked where he thought BAR was compared to the other teams, Fry noted: "I think at the moment the ones doing the best job are McLaren, who have demonstrated they are very capable in both speed and longevity.

"I think we are not quite as good as them yet, but our target is still to win races. We are comfortable that we are in with a chance of that."

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