Panis ‘shaves’ two seconds off Valencia lap record

Olivier Panis completed more than two Grand Prix race distances during his penultimate ever day of testing for the McLaren-Mercedes team at the Valencia circuit today (Thursday)

Panis ‘shaves’ two seconds off Valencia lap record

The Frenchman is leaving his McLaren test role to take up a race seat with BAR-Honda in 2001 and seems set on going out on a high. With a freshly-shaved head - a measure taken by Panis to pre-empt surprise attacks from the McLaren mechanics - the 34-year-old completed a mammoth 135 laps around the twisty Spanish track and smashed the lap record by a clear two seconds.

Panis was the sole McLaren driver present and spent much of the day developing a brand new soft Bridgestone tyre which will be on offer in Malaysia, alongside an existing extra-soft compound.

The only other driver at Valencia was Pedro de la Rosa, who was driving an Arrows with AMT's re-badged Peugeot engine for the first time. The Leafield-based team is swapping its current Supertec engine for the AMT unit for next year. De la Rosa's A21 was using an existing Arrows gearbox mated to the new engine. The Spaniard set a time 3.01s behind Panis.

"I am quite surprised it worked so well," said de la Rosa. "It's too early to say how it compares on performance [to our current Supertec engine], but so far, so good."

Testing was brought to a brief halt mid-afternoon when the AMT engine mis-fired and died out on the circuit, but normal service resumed once the car was retrieved.

Panis will complete his final day of running for McLaren tomorrow (Friday), before beginning a holiday, leaving race drivers Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard to attempt the difficult task of overhauling Ferrari for the constructors' championship at the final GP in Malaysia.

When Panis left the Prost team at the end of the 1999 season, the French outfit gave him one of the AP02 cars as a leaving present. Sadly, he cannot expect the same from McLaren...

"I asked them (the team) if I could take the car with me," quipped Panis. "They said no!"

Also testing today were the Benetton team at Barcelona and a lone Williams-BMW at Magny-Cours, driven by test driver Bruno Junqueira. Prost was also due to test at Barcelona but cancelled at the beginning of the week.


Olivier Panis, McLaren-Mercedes 1m13.50s 135
Pedro de la Rosa, Arrows-AMT 1m16.51s 62

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