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Lucky Strike BAR Honda concluded a three-day test at the revised Paul Ricard circuit yesterday. Olivier Panis began this intensive test for the team on Monday with an engine and suspension programme. He continued this work, together with a Bridgestone tyre test, through Tuesday before handing over the reins to Jacques Villeneuve on Wednesday to complete a full race distance.

In total Panis put in 114 laps around the circuit with a best time of 1:36.94, despite having to contend with a wet track on Monday. For the remaining two days the track was dry although it remained cool. Villeneuve's best time was a 1.37.08 during his 69 laps.

At the end of his programme, Olivier commented: "I've had two good days of testing here and we've put plenty of laps on the new engine. We've had no real problems and our reliability has been good so we're feeling quite positive. We still have a few days before we leave for Melbourne so we have some time to look at the data and continue to improve right up until the race weekend. Obviously, only the qualifying will show us where we are but we've done as much work as we can to prepare for this first race."

Both drivers thoroughly enjoyed testing at this impressive new circuit. Work is still underway in the outfield areas but the state- of-the-art track is already operational. Olivier is particularly fond of Paul Ricard – he had his first Formula One test here with Ligier and last raced at the circuit in 1993.

"I have very good memories of the old track," said Olivier. "I won the Elf Winfield school here in 1987 and lived nearby for four years when I was competing here in the Formula Renault and Formula 3 Championships. I think the changes they have made to the circuit are incredible - they've done an unbelievable job. They've changed the layout but the old Paul Ricard is still recognisable. There are some very difficult and challenging corners so it's a great circuit for testing. The run-off areas are very hi-tech. There are different grades of coloured tarmac which are clever - they slow the car down at very high speed but you can still recover the car and get back on the track very easily. There aren't any gravel traps so if you do go off there is no damage to the car. This is great for testing because it helps you to maximise track time but, more importantly, a lot of thought has been given to the safety aspect. It's a great circuit and it would be nice to see a race here one day."
 
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