Surprise and Shine
Since the surprise reveal of the TF106 car on Monday, the Panasonic Toyota Racing team has been busy stretching the legs of its new 2006 car at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona. Comprising a new rear-end, modified front suspension, new specification RVX-06 engine and new Bridgestone tyres, the entire team faced a series of unknowns in Spain, but midway through this week's four day test session, initial results have proven encouraging.
With three months to go before the opening race of 2006 in Bahrain, the Cologne-based team is under no illusions as to how much development still needs to be done, but is confident that the early launch of the TF106 will prove advantageous in the long-run. A similar strategy was used in 2005 to good effect, highlighted by the consequent string of podium results and Toyota's most successful season to date.
After two days of testing, Jarno Trulli has amounted an impressively reliable and relatively trouble-free 147 laps and leaves Barcelona buoyed by the work of his team and the positive initial results of the TF106.
Jarno Trulli – Chassis TF106/02
Best lap time on 29-November: 1.18.641
Total of laps on 29-November: 82
Best lap time on 30-November: 1.17.019
Total of laps on 30-November: 65
How was your feeling in your first day testing the V8?
"In general it was very positive. I was extremely surprised by the car handling and the engine power and the general feeling of the car. In the straight away the car was correct. It was running well and it was competitive. A very good start!"
What about the new tyres?
"It was a very good, very positive start. We have done several laps which have been consistent, reliable. The first feeling has been good. We still have some work to do with the front suspension in terms of response. But I am confident as the engineers are already working on these matters since a long time for fixing at the tests. We hope to solve this before the first race."
Fuel If You Think it's Over
Ricardo Zonta, recently confirmed as Panasonic Toyota Racing's third driver for 2006, is only halfway through his testing programme for the week. After a strong first outing, Ricardo's second day was hampered by a fuel pump problem that cut his running short. Not a man to be kept down for long, Ricardo was soon back out on track in the afternoon and is confident that normal service will resume tomorrow.
Ricardo Zonta – Chassis TF106/01
Best lap time on 29-November: 1.17.821
Total of laps on 29-November: 58
Best lap time on 30-November: 1.17.440
Total of laps on 30-November: 20
Ricardo, what were you concentrating on today and yesterday?
"Yesterday I have tested tyre set-up and today I have not made so many laps. We still have a lot of work to do but I am here until Friday."
Why did you not drive many laps today?
"I had some difficulties with my fuel pump and the team has decided to change it. As it takes some time, I was not able to drive in the morning."
What was the first impression of the V8 comparing to the V10? Do you feel less power?
"It was very positive. Barcelona is a good track for testing the V8 with fast corners where we do not feel the lost of power".
What is the summary of testing new car, new engine and new tyres?
"I am very impressed with the job done on the new car until now and of course we need to work hard to understand how all these 3 points work together."
Into the Groove
The Barcelona test sees Panasonic Toyota Racing test for the first time with Bridgestone tyres and initial results are looking promising.
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director, Chassis
What were the main programmes of the two first test days?
"We did not really have any major mechanical problems. Jarno especially had two reasonably trouble free days running. On Ricardo's car we had hydraulic leak on the first day and problem on the second day with a development fuel pump, but nothing that really affects our test programme. Over all the cars have been very reliable for the two days."
What were the conclusions of the tests?
"The conclusion for us is it was very positive. We have made good progress. The laptimes look competitive, which is pleasing, but I think there is still a lot to come from improving the car further."
Could you tell in this stage that the Bridgestone tyres are fitting with the new TF106?
"In general we worked with Bridgestone, our technical partner, to understand the tyres. We still have a lot of work to do, but on the other side we did not have real problems to achieve a balance on the car with the new tyres."
What is the advantage to test a new car before the competitors?
"For us the fact that we are testing early we can work on the reliability of the new car and the V8 engine, and we've got time to fix any major issues. Plus the fact that our development work with Bridgestone is with the new car, which will avoid any further changes. I think this gives us a good advantage over our competitors, combined with the ability to introduce last minute changes up to the first race."
Ricardo will be joined by Ralf Schumacher for the remaining two days of this week's Barcelona test, when the German will get his first taste of the TF106.