The recently-renamed Force India F1 team completed its first kilometres as the opening Formula One group test of the off-season kicked off at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on Tuesday.

Resplendent in a striking interim colour scheme of burgundy and white, the former Jordan/Midland/Spyker team completed just under 800km, the most of any team participating at the three-day test, while giving F1 hopefuls Roldan Rodriguez and Giedo van der Garde the chance to get more experience under their belts.

Both drivers used versions of the Spyker F8-VII fitted with the standard electronics package that will be mandatory for 2008. As such, traction control and other driver aids were no longer on offer, and the Spaniard and Dutchman focused on accumulating data for the new system, which saw the cars running an average of 1.5secs slower than it did during the 2007 season.

With few problems to report, the team was pleased with a productive day's running, having set a strong baseline for the remaining two days, when Adrian Sutil - who has experience of the F8-VII from the recent race campaign - running alongside hopefuls Tonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien.

"For 2008, the cars must use a standard electronic control system for the engine and chassis, making traction control and other driver aids of recent years a thing of the past," confirmed chief race and test engineer Dominic Harlow, "There is obviously a tremendous amount of work to understand and re-optimise the cars around the new system, but we feel today was a very positive start.

"Giedo and Roldan did exactly what was asked of them today, completing more laps between them than any other team here, and laying the foundations for the rest of the week's programme."

GP2 frontrunner Rodriguez remains strongly linked to a race seat at the team, particularly among the Spanish media, and was happy to have created a positive impression during the day.

"I think the test was pretty good," he said, after getting his first proper run in the car following late-season involvement with the team, "It was my first real day of testing after the 50km shakedowns I have done and, at first, I felt it was not easy to go to the limit. Overall, though, I think it went pretty smoothly and we got in lots of running. We now know where we are with the new electronics, which is positive for the rest of the test."

van der Garde, meanwhile, was adding to the testing experience he picked up during the past year, which was interrupted by a contract wrangle between Spyker and Super Aguri.

"It was a good day today, especially considering we were running without traction control and anti-lock," he confirmed, "At the beginning of the day, the car had a little understeer, but we worked hard over the day and can be pretty happy with the way it went as it's not easy to get used to the car's handling.

"It's been a while since I've been in the car, the last time was at Spa, but I soon got used to it again and I'm pleased with what we achieved. Although we didn't use new tyres or do any low fuel runs, we did get lots of information on the electronics package, which was the goal for today."



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