After the lifting of the test ban which has been in place since the end of September, winter testing got underway in earnest in Valencia for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team this week.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher and Marc Gene shared testing duties with three chassis running for three days, followed by Gene conducting a day of wet tyre testing today [Friday].

The test team ran in excess of 2,500km of evaluation work, aimed mainly at bringing components on stream for the January 5th, 2004 launch of the WilliamsF1 BMW FW26. Both the new BMW P84 engine and transmission were thoroughly trialed over long run simulations, and other valuable work including tyre testing and practice starts to account for new regulations, were undertaken.

Next week the test team switches its attentions to Jerez, where it will be testing on the 2nd - 4th of Decemeber inclusive. Schumacher and Gene will spearhead the test, but they will be joined by Nelson Piquet Jnr and Nico Rosberg, both of whom will be undergoing evaluation tests with the team.

The test team stays in Jerzez into mid-December, and on December 11, Ho-Pin Tung will also undergo an evaluation test, making history as the first Chinese national to ever test a Formula One car. The significance of this test drive, a prize for an outstanding achievements in winning the 2003 Formula BMW Asia Championship, is heightened by the anticipation surrounding the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai in 2004.

Sam Michael, chief operations engineer at WilliamsF1, summed up: "We started our winter testing programme in Valencia with all three drivers. Marc was driving the 25B with the new engine and gearbox. He spent the test doing systems checks and reliability running. The majority of the components performed well and we will continue with mileage on these parts through the next few tests.

"Ralf and Juan spent the test working on electronics, traction control, suspension set ups and tyre testing for Michelin. Manual starts and gear shifting were high on the test list as well given that they cannot be automatic in 2004. It took the drivers some time to get used to it again and now they are making progress."

Mario Theissen, BMW's motorsport director, added: "The Valencia test provided perfect operating conditions to run three cars. The focus for the test was set-up and tyres, and a range of engine related tests supported by BMW. These included manual starts and the further development of traction control. The test provided useful engine data from the new BMW P84 and the information the test has provided has proved very useful."



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