STEWART-FORD SF3 'MILES AHEAD' IN JEREZ TEST
The Stewart-Ford Formula One team completed a highly impressive three day test at the Jerez Circuit in Southern Spain.
Rubens Barrichello and Johnny Herbert, both running their 1999 cars simultaneously for the first time, produced competitive times as both cars gained valuable mileage ahead of the opening Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 7th.
Despite losing most of Saturday owing to heavy rain, Rubens (SF3-02) and Johnny (SF3-03) completed 61 and 64 laps respectively on Sunday and Monday to provide the team with crucial data in the build-up to the 1999 season.
This was the first time the SF3 chassis and the new Ford-Cosworth CR1 engine had run in the dry and, as would be expected for such a test, several new problems were identified. Most of the issues were concerned with oil system installation problems and obviously these will be worked on in the next few days.
"We've had a really positive test. We ran two engines hard accumulating good mileage and identified a number of issues which we can now address. The most important thing is that we have demonstrated both the car and engine are a good step forward," says Nick Hayes, F1 Programme Manager, Cosworth Racing.
On Sunday, Rubens clocked the second quickest flying lap of the day with a time of 1:26.60. Rubens' time eclipsed those of Jacques Villeneuve (BAR, 1:26.61), Ricardo Zonta (BAR, 1:26.63) and Alexander Wurz (Benetton, 1:28.05). He was bettered only by Jos Verstappen at the wheel of the experimental Honda Formula One car.
Rubens, delighted with such a competitive time in the SF3's first serious test outing, was happy with his weekend. He attributed his achievement to the behind-the-scenes efforts of everyone in the Stewart-Ford team: "There is no doubt the team is in very good shape. We have never been this well prepared this early in pre-season testing. I was very impressed with the way the car responded to set-up changes. In particular I noticed a vast improvement in traction in slow corner exit and handling under braking from last year. There is also a marked difference in top end power from the new engine. Obviously I'm keeping my feet on the ground because we all know the real test will come in Melbourne - but I'm very encouraged at the this stage.''
During Monday's running Johnny, still familiarising himself with the SF3, produced a time of 1:27.12, though his main objective was to run reliably rather than record a quick time.
Johnny put together a string of consistently good laps and was only prevented from his intention of a longer one-off run towards the end of the day by a spate of red flags. Nonetheless he was able to log ample miles during the course of his 64 laps and was equally satisfied. Having driven the SF2 in two previous test sessions he was able to draw comparisons with the new car.
"I'm very happy with the number of laps I was able to cover on Monday. Things are looking very bright, the chassis is a big improvement on last year's. I feel that we have made a big jump and I'm looking forward to a competitive year. With the modifications we have to come and with further development work, we can approach Melbourne with confidence."