BAR, Toyota Exploit Testing Loophole

The testing limitation agreement reached between the non-Ferrari teams has been thrown into chaos after BAR and Toyota chose to exploit a loophole in the accord  and bring extra cars to Jerez, Autosport-Atlas can reveal

BAR, Toyota Exploit Testing Loophole

The non-Ferrari teams had all agreed at the start of this year to a strict testing limit over the course of the season in a bid to bring down costs. They restricted themselves to 30 days running, and stipulated that they could run a maximum of two cars on those days and only test at one track.

The latter limits were laid down in a bid to further keep a lid on costs, so there would be no temptation for teams to fund two separate test teams at different venues, or bring extra personnel or more cars to each test.

But in a controversial move at Jerez, Toyota and BAR have turned up at the test with more than two cars. This week's test is crucially the last before the summer break in August.

Toyota have brought three machines with them, two regular cars and one fitted with a V8 engine, while BAR have brought four different cars with them.

There are three regular machines and one other development car that features components and electronic systems planned for longer-term development. The team want to keep this car's programme separate from their 2005 work.

Toyota made the most of the opportunity with their cars and ran Ralf Schumacher and Ricardo Zonta in their 2005 machines, with Olivier Panis concentrating on the V8 work.

At BAR, Jenson Button concentrated on aerodynamic developments in one car, while Anthony Davidson swapped between two machines. He ran the engine spec planned for the German Grand Prix in one car, before switching to mechanical development in the second car.

BAR's fourth car stayed in the garage but will be run by Takuma Sato tomorrow.

Both Japanese manufacturers made sure not to break the wording of the testing agreement, however, by only running two of their cars on the track at any one time. Their rivals watched them closely all day to ensure there was no breach, although they are far from happy with the situation.  

Their rivals claim that having the use of the extra cars hands the teams a huge advantage, because it virtually guarantees that they will not lose any track time if they suffer problems with one of their other machines.

At Jerez on Wednesday, for example, Williams and McLaren both had their testing compromised because of the two-car limit.

Williams, in need of as much mileage as possible to sort out the aerodynamic issues with their new bodywork, have had to devote one car to V8 testing for BMW, while McLaren were limited because Juan Pablo Montoya was sidelined with an engine failure early on.

One leading team member from a rival team, who did not wish to be identified, told Autosport-Atlas: "What BAR and Toyota are doing is not how we interpreted the regulation. It is a little bit naughty."

The actions of Toyota and BAR will almost certainly increase the danger of all teams now turning up at tests with more than two cars - which will effectively negate any of the cost-saving brought about by the 30-day limit.

Toyota proved that testing costs would go up if teams bring the extra cars after drafting in three separate crews for the three cars at Jerez.

The only way to avoid this situation would be for the teams to reach a fresh agreement closing off the loophole to prevent teams turning up at tracks with extra cars.

The Jerez controversy is not the first time that the wording of the 30-day limit has led to bizarre situations. Earlier this year McLaren famously paid out to send a test team down to Spain just in case a planned outing at Silverstone was rained off.

The Silverstone test went ahead and the other test team enjoyed a day off in the paddock instead.

Other teams have been present at venues but not run because of fears that poor weather later in the day would limit their dry running, and they did not want to lose one of their valuable days doing wet-weather work.

Toyota and BAR's action are in contrast to the lengths that some teams have gone not to break the two-car limit. Renault even asked permission from their rivals to be allowed to shakedown a 2004 demonstration car at Silverstone while their test teams were running elsewhere.

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