Jerez 2: 'Darth Vader' shines

Juan Pablo Montoya made the most of the car that he has labelled his 'Darth Vader' during testing at Jerez in Spain on Wednesday when McLaren's radically winged MP4-20 topped the times

Jerez 2: 'Darth Vader' shines

The Colombian was able to lap quickly and consistently in the McLaren, which has been fitted with radical extra horn wings on the engine cover, to outpace the ever-improving Williams of Nick Heidfeld by half a second.

Speaking to autosport.com about the promise shown by the new McLaren, which broke the lap record at Valencia in Spain last week in the hands of Kimi Raikkonen, Montoya had trouble keeping his confidence from showing.

"Do you like my Darth Vader?" he joked. "It is really consistent and is not too bad. I cannot complain about it at all."

Although the McLaren has shown itself to be ultra quick on a single lap, as Raikkonen proved, there still appears to be some concern about the race distance pace of the rival Renault team - even though the R25s have not lapped as impressively at Jerez as they did at Valencia.

But Montoya could not prevent himself from taking a quick jibe at the French manufacturers' current lack of reliability - which was proved again on Wednesday when Fernando Alonso suffered an engine failure and Giancarlo Fisichella stopped with an electrical problem.

"Yeah they are quick, but they stop a lot," smiled Montoya. "We don't!"

McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa was equally upbeat about the overall pace of the MP4-20, which appears to be emerging as Ferrari's main threat for championship honours, but claimed that the team could not get complacent about its reliability.

"It is a very fast car and very good to drive," he told autosport.com. "The one thing we have to work on now is the reliability and we just have to keep doing laps, laps and more laps."

Heidfeld was delighted about the improvements he has found at Williams since doubts about the overall competitiveness of the team's FW27 emerged at the team's launch, although team-mate Mark Webber had a less than encouraging day. The Australian had an engine failure in the morning and then crashed at the same Peluqui corner that claimed BAR star Takuma Sato in the early afternoon.

Felipe Massa, who had been quickest overall on the first day of the test, continued Sauber's recovery from its recent troubled time at Barcelona as he worked on set-up, tyre and brake evaluation.

Behind Rubens Barrichello in the F2004M, Alonso managed to set the fifth best time but, amid rumours of a far from harmonious relationship with his team, he has been barred from speaking to the media about the progress of the R25.

Team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella was openly chatting with delight, however, at the continued promise of the car - although conceded with Montoya's viewpoint that reliability remains its biggest Achilles heel.

"The car is very good and we have a strong pace here," said Fisichella, who had been delighted with the blistering pace shown by the car in Valencia last week. "It looks like the car is good because it was quick in Valencia and it is pretty good here.

"The car is pretty impressive in long runs and now it is just a big question of how we are going to be in Barcelona next week. We still have a lot of work to do on reliability, but I am confident and I am really looking forward to the next test."

Sato ended the day with the slowest time after his crash early in the afternoon, with the team still unsure about the exact cause of the accident.



Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren), 1m16.816s, 101 laps
Nick Heidfeld (Williams), 1m17.387s, 123 laps
Felipe Massa (Sauber), 1m17.389s, 98 laps
Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), 1m17.449s, 69 laps
Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1m17.539s, 35 laps
Christian Klien (Red Bull Racing), 1m17.583s, 109 laps
Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), 1m17.629s, 59 laps
David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing), 1m17.913s, 79 laps
Mark Webber (Williams), 1m17.938s, 34 laps
Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren), 1m17.958s, 97 laps
Anthony Davidson (BAR*), 1m18.296s, 163 laps
Jacques Villeneuve (Sauber), 1m18.612s, 94 laps
Luca Badoer (Ferrari*), 1m18.687s, 73 laps
Jarno Trulli (Toyota), 1m19.047s, 91 laps
Ricardo Zonta (Toyota), 1m19.773s, 72 laps
Takuma Sato (BAR), 1m20.068s, 13 laps

* denotes 2004 car

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Montoya Tops the Times at Jerez - Day Two

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