Williams-BMW test driver Antonio Pizzonia set the pace at Jerez de la Frontera on the penultimate day of testing before the summer break, enhancing his claim for a possible race seat at the German Grand Prix next weekend.

Blessed once again with ideal weather conditions, Jerez saw the fastest time of the week lowered for the second time, as Pizzonia clocked a 1min 17.388secs best, knocking two-tenths off Rubens Barrichello's quickest lap from Wednesday. The Williams driver spent the day tyre testing and evaluating traction control and cooling comparisons ahead of next weekend's trip to Hockenheim, and completed 84 laps of the Spanish circuit.

Team-mate Marc Gene, who has acted as substitute for the injured Ralf Schumacher over the past fortnight, also completed in excess of 80 laps, working on set-up options in the morning, before switching to a tyre evaluation after lunch. The Spaniard has yet to be confirmed as Schumacher's replacement for Germany, leading to speculation that he may himself be replaced by Pizzonia or one of a number of drivers currently driving for other teams.

BAR's Jenson Button clocked the second fastest time of the day for the second day running, and also ducked under Barrichello's Wednesday time with a 1min 17.417secs best effort despite completing just 27 laps. The Briton continued to run with the team's latest innovations fitted to his Honda-powered 006, and worked on the next stage of a tyre evaluation for the two mid-summer grands prix in Germany and Hungary.

He was joined on the day by team-mate Takuma Sato, who took over the second car from reserve driver Anthony Davidson and picked up the Briton's aero programme as well as beginning work on his own set-up options for the forthcoming races. Where Davidson's track time had been limited by engine and gearbox problems on Wednesday, Taku managed to complete 65 laps and set the sixth fastest time of the day.

Having replaced Barrichello in the lone Ferrari, multiple world champion Michael Schumacher focused on a programme of set-up and tyre evaluations, as well as taking time to run new components on his F2004. The German driver covered a total of 68 laps without any major dramas, setting the third quickest time at 1min 17.867secs - fractionally slower than his team-mate had managed on Wednesday.

While most teams ran two cars in Spain, Ferrari persisted with a split programme, with Luca Badoer in action for a third day at Monza. The Italian is working on a parallel tyre test, and completed another 70 laps of data accumulation.

Toyota inched back up the timesheets on day three, with test driver Ricardo Zonta lapping three-tenths off Schumacher's pace in fourth spot overall. With Olivier Panis replacing Cristiano da Matta in the team's second car, Toyota racked up in excess of 150 laps as they ran through component evaluation ahead of the introduction of the heavily revised TF104B in Germany.

Despite solid mileage from both drivers, the Cologne-based team's effort was put in the shade by Renault, which managed to run both of its R24s to over 100 laps apiece. Fernando Alonso, who joined the test in place of Heikki Kovalainen, led the way with 120 tours and fifth fastest time - a 1min 18.209secs effort - with Franck Montagny providing ample back-up with 102 laps of his own, and seventh on the timesheets. As if to underline its efforts, the team passed the 30,000km mark for 2004 testing during this morning's running.

Alonso spent the day testing tyres for Hockenheim and Budapest, conducting endurance work on the tyre options retained following Montagny's tyre test yesterday. The Frenchman conducted performance runs as he continued the next stage of the tyre programme, and both drivers tested engine evolutions for Hockenheim and beyond. Alonso evaluated developments for the forthcoming German race, while Montagny concentrated on longer term development.

McLaren continued to field test drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Alex Wurz as it pressed on with an intensive parts development programme ahead of the forthcoming races, but the Spaniard fared better than his Austrian counterpart, clocking the ninth fastest lap while Wurz languished at the foot of the table. Such was the close nature of the times in the lower half, just four-tenths separated the pair, and de la Rosa was only a similar margin from fourth spot.

Mark Webber replaced Jaguar test driver Bjorn Wirdheim alongside race partner Christian Klien, but found himself slightly out-paced by the young Austrian.

Leading performances (15 July) - Jerez:

Antonio Pizzonia Williams-BMW 1min 17.388secs 84 lapsJenson Button BAR-Honda 1min 17.417secs 27 lapsMichael Schumacher Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 17.867secs 68 laps*Ricardo Zonta Toyota-Toyota 1min 18.186secs 78 lapsFernando Alonso Renault-Renault 1min 18.209secs 120 lapsTakuma Sato BAR-Honda 1min 18.373secs 65 lapsFranck Montagny Renault-Renault 1min 18.396secs 102 lapsMarc Gen? Williams-BMW 1min 18.454secs 88 lapsPedo de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes 1min 18.500secs 106 lapsOlivier Panis Toyota-Toyota 1min 18.629secs 82 lapsChristian Klien Jaguar-Cosworth 1min 18.653secs 84 lapsMark Webber Jaguar-Cosworth 1min 18.691secs 92 lapsAlex Wurz McLaren-Mercedes 1min 18.928secs 87 laps

[* denotes Bridgestone tyres; all others on Michelin]

All times unofficial - courtesy of BMW-WilliamsF1