Renault's trio of drivers, Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli and Franck Montagny have given the new R24 a massive vote of confidence following the official launch today in Italy, Alonso even going so far as to add that the old R23 is now 'forgotten'.

Trulli was the first to test the 2004 car last week, running at Barcelona and the Italian is already very impressed and excited about the possibilities for 2004.

"I drove the R24 for two days at Barcelona, and had the privilege of completing its first run," he noted, "I stood in the garage for a long time admiring the car. It is always a special moment, a fantastic emotion.

"On the R24, the quality of the engineering is impeccable: I felt confident in the car from the first few hundred metres. The driving position is ideal and after two years at Renault, I really feel at home in their cars.

"The aim was to check all the systems were working properly, and to see how well the car responded to set-up changes. The results on the track have already confirmed what the computers at the factory had predicted. I generally prefer to wait a little before judging, but in spite of lots of little details that need to be sorted out, I am very optimistic for 2004."

Alonso meanwhile was just as upbeat, and the Spaniard, who won his first grand prix last year in Hungary, was also more than pleased with the new engine, which replaces the radically-wide 110-degree V angle.

"From the very first time I drove the R24, I could tell it had the same characteristics as the R23," commented Alonso, "The handling is not much different, which is good news. My reference points were similar, and it was worked on the set-up and on the general balance, I was able to push a bit, and the car was immediately faster than the old one. This kind of performance is what you normally get after four or five tests: we managed it in three days, and I think that gives some idea of our potential.

"The new engine has more torque, and is also more powerful, but without the aggressive characteristics of the RS23 at high revs. This smoothness makes it easier on the corner exit. In my mind, there's no doubt: the R23 is already forgotten."

Test/third driver Franck Montagny was also present at the roll-out of the new R24, the Frenchman adding: "I was in the garage at Barcelona: I wouldn't have missed the first run of the new car for anything.

"Of course, Jarno and Fernando will do the majority of the testing before Melbourne in order to familiarise themselves with the R24, but having seen the testing programme we have planned for this year, I know my turn will come soon!

"I know my role in the team will be very important, and I prepared myself as much as possible this winter. Now, I can't wait to get to Melbourne and to see what the team can do."

Renault have been testing at Valenica this week, however over the course of the next four weeks they will test in Barcelona on February 3-5, Jerez on February 10-12, Barcelona again on the 17-19, before concluding preparations for the coming season at Silverstone on February 23-25.

All three drivers will be in action during these tests, the team running two R24's for Trulli and Alonso from the second Barcelona test onwards.

 

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