IMOLA, ITALY, February 16, 2001 - Following hot on the heels of the announcement that Belgian star, David Saelens, would be joining Italian charger, Andrea Piccini, at European Minardi F3000 for the 2001 season, the team launched straight into a busy two-day official test at Imola on Wednesday. Virtually all competitors in this year's FIA International F3000 Championship were present at the famous circuit, near Bologna.
Causing something of a stir in the Imola paddock was the presence of Fernando Alonso, who only recently signed for the European Minardi F1 team. The Spanish teenage sensation, who had a highly successful debut season in Formula 3000 last year, was there to assist the European Minardi F3000 team with chassis set-up and to provide a performance benchmark for the other two drivers. Alonso, in common with the rest of the European Minardi F1 team, will be leaving for Melbourne, Australia, late next week, where the first Grand Prix of the 2001 season takes place on Sunday, March 4.
As expected, he was immediately on the pace and set the fastest time on the opening morning in Saelens' car. He then switched to Piccini's chassis for the afternoon session and ended the day third quickest. The team's regular drivers spent the majority of the first day playing themselves in, familiarising themselves with their new team and 2001-specification F3000 cars. The emphasis on the second day shifted to a chassis development programme, and Saelens and Piccini ended the day in 14'h and 15'h places respectively.
"It was fun to get back into a Formula 3000 car again and to be able to drive it at a circuit like Imola," commented Alonso at the conclusion of the test. "The cars feel strong, the team is well run, and I'm sure Andrea and David can look forward to a good year in terms of results. For me, though, the focus is now 100 per cent on Formula One and the Australian Grand Prix. I can't wait for the season to start."
European Minardi F3000 Team Manager, Richard Salisbury, was also pleased with the outcome of the test. "Inevitably, teams and drivers are a little rusty after the winter lay-off, so it was good to get everybody back in harness again and focussed on what we're going to be doing for the next seven months," he said. "As expected, Andrea and David settled in quickly and provided some good feedback in the course of the test. Having Fernando here was a real bonus, as quite apart from some excellent technical input, I'm sure his presence served to spur on our two regular drivers, and probably most of the other competitors as well."