Gene tops first day at Valencia test

A dozen drivers took to the Valencia track today for the first day of testing this week and Williams' tester Marc Gené set the best time. In the FW26, Gené clocked a fastest of 1:10.198 over 74 laps. Teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, also in an FW26...

A dozen drivers took to the Valencia track today for the first day of testing this week and Williams' tester Marc Gené set the best time. In the FW26, Gené clocked a fastest of 1:10.198 over 74 laps. Teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, also in an FW26 chassis, was third quickest. Gené worked on tyres and traction control while Montoya concentrated on mechanical and aerodynamic set-ups.

Former Williams test driver Antonio Pizzonia returns to the fold tomorrow to take up track duties for the team. After being ousted from a Jaguar race seat last year in favour of Justin Wilson, Pizzonia looks likely to resume his test role with Williams in 2004. "12 months out of a Williams has done nothing to slow Antonio down," said chief operations engineer Sam Michael.

Michael Schumacher split the pair of Williams drivers in second fastest, completing 115 laps in the Ferrari F2003-GA and working on tyres, set up and electronics. The Ferrari-powered Sauber of Felipe Massa was fourth on the time sheet, the Brazilian rolling out the second new C23 chassis with a focus on tyres and set up. A trip into the gravel by Massa caused a brief red flag period but it didn't hamper him, or the session, for long.

Jarno Trulli was the best Renault and set the fifth fastest time in the R24, while Renault tester Franck Montagny in the R23B was seventh. First of the two Toyotas present, Olivier Panis was sixth in the TF104 and team test driver Ricardo Zonta was tenth, driving the interim chassis. BAR also had two cars at work, tester Anthony Davidson eighth and Takuma Sato ninth.

Mark Webber was behind the wheel of the Jaguar R5, which has yet to show any real competitive pace, and was 11th. Minardi had its first outing of the winter with Gianmaria Bruni rounding off the times. The Italian drove an interim chassis, testing parts for the 2004 car and Cosworth engine, and was 2.7 seconds behind Gené. Bruni's teammate Zsolt Baumgartner takes over tomorrow.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Jarno Trulli , Antonio Pizzonia , Michael Schumacher , Mark Webber , Olivier Panis , Ricardo Zonta , Anthony Davidson , Gianmaria Bruni , Justin Wilson , Franck Montagny , Marc Gene , Felipe Massa , Zsolt Baumgartner
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , Williams , Minardi