The fifth, and final, day of Minardi's week-long programme at the Autodromo Santamonica had a distinct flavour of the Bas Pays about it. The team's two-seater F1 cars were back in action for the second time in three days, with Jos Verstappen, Zsolt Baumgartner, Nicolas Kiesa and Robert Doornbos handling the driving duties.
In addition, Dutch Porsche racing star, Patrick Huisman, and Belgian F3000 competitor, Jeffrey van Hooydonk, sampled Formula One performance for the first time, both men having brief runs in a Minardi Cosworth PS04B.
At the conclusion of the day's two-seater programme, the F1x2 team had provided a total of 62 guests -- nominated by commercial partners, the Muermans Group, Puma and Brevi -- with passenger rides around the 4.060-km Misano circuit. This brings the number of passengers carried during the two days to over 100, with the hard-working F1x2 cars having covered a total of 1300 km in that time.
"After a year away from driving, I really enjoyed getting back in the Minardi F1x2 car, especially as sponsor, Harry Muermans, is here with all his guests. It is always very exciting for the passengers in the back of the two-seaters. It has been an excellent day, and a very good event for the sponsors and Minardi."
Jeffrey van Hooydonk:
"It was really great. I never thought it was going to be so fast on the straight and also that the braking would be so amazing. In the beginning, I found it just a little bit difficult because the throttle was very sensitive and the power was immediately there. I needed a little time to get used to it, but overall, it was really great, even though it was only a few laps. Now I have a real impression of what a Formula One car is all about, and I'm really happy I took this opportunity."
"I have been racing for 10 years, and now I have finally had the chance to drive an F1 car, I know why I did all this training -- you really need every bit of physical and mental preparation to drive a Formula One car. It was like a computer game, only faster!"
"It was a fantastic experience. Normally, to get to drive a Formula One car, you race in all the single-seater categories first. For me, this was the first time driving an open-wheel car, so it was something very special. It was both strange and a bit scary initially. "
"The engine was quite easy to get used to, but the braking is very, very impressive, as are the forces in an open car with the wind buffeting your helmet. I took it very easy today and just wanted to enjoy the experience. I think it is probably not so difficult to go four or five seconds quicker, but then to find those last two or three seconds is always the most difficult part in motor racing."
"I really enjoyed it -- it was the best day of my life and I hope maybe I can experience it again in the future. You never know. Finally, I'd like to thank Harry Muermans, for talking with Paul Stoddart and the Minardi team so that I could have a run in the car."
"The whole team has done a fantastic job all week long to have completed so many runs. Both the Minardi F1 and F1x2 teams have put in serious effort here. Whether it's the young drivers, who have driven a Formula One car for the first time, or our guests, who have experienced F1 from the passenger seat, you have only to look at their faces as they arrive back at the garage to see what a successful event it has been."
"It has also been particularly pleasing to see so many smiles from the guests of the Muermans Group, as Harry Muermans has been such a staunch supporter of the Minardi team over the past few years."
JEFFREY VAN HOOYDONK
Best lap: 1 min 15.930
Total laps: 5
Best lap: 1 min 20.420 secs
Total laps: 6