As confirmed yesterday [Thursday] by Minardi, reserve driver Gianmaria Bruni duly took part in Friday morning's extra test session ahead of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix - working alongside the team's regular drivers, Jos Verstappen and Nicolas Kiesa.

It is the fifth time this season that the 22-year old Roman, who joined European Minardi as official test and reserve driver in July, has driven the spare chassis during a grand prix weekend, and again he acquitted himself well on an unfamiliar circuit, lapping fractionally slower than the more experienced Verstappen and almost a second quicker than Kiesa, who he had been rumoured to be replacing this weekend.

"Gimmi has done an excellent job for us this year, and it only makes sense to maximise the two-hour testing session available to the team at Suzuka by again running a third car," commented team principal Paul Stoddart, "The European-based teams are not able to test at Suzuka, which evens out the playing field somewhat for smaller teams like Minardi.

"Aside from the potential for additional data-gathering the extra car gives the team, it provides Gimmi with the opportunity to experience one of the most challenging motor racing circuits in the world, while also increasing his Formula One experience."

Bruni's call-up for Suzuka kicked the rumour mill into life, as he had been expected to contest the penultimate round of the Euro F3000 series at Jerez, where he still holds a chance - albeit a slim one - of overtaking title rival Augusto Farfus in the point standings.

Following the week's speculation, Minardi made full reference to Bruni's F3000 involvement while confirming that he would indeed only be testing in Japan and not racing - which now suggests that the Italian will be winging his way back to Europe to take part in this weekend's Spanish round.



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