Location: Circuito Permanente de Jerez, Spain Track length: 4.428kms
Panasonic Toyota Racing returned to action in Spain today after the Christmas break, with Ralf Schumacher and third driver Ricardo Zonta driving a pair of the team's TF106 chassis first tested last year.
The team began what will be an intensive period of testing throughout January and February, preceding the first Grand Prix to be run under F1's new 2.4-litre V8 engine regulations in Bahrain on March 12.
Schumacher concentrated on chassis set-up, while Zonta began the day with engine and electronic work before starting a long Bridgestone tyre test programme in the afternoon. As well as the new 2006 engine regulations, Toyota is furthering its relationship with new tyre partner Bridgestone as, together, they contend with tyre regulations that once again place the emphasis on outright performance rather than durability. All these parameters ensure that Toyota's pre-season test schedule will be especially busy.
AHEAD OF THE GAME
Ralf Schumacher took time out to meet the stars of Hannover 96 at Jerez before helping to give his own team a head start to '06.
Ralf Schumacher – Chassis TF106/02
Best lap time: 1m19.886s
Total laps: 59
Total distance: 261.252kms
"There are no really big changes to the car since the last test in December and we are still concentrating on adapting the car to the Bridgestone tyres and putting mileages on gearboxes and engines. In general the car feels very good, with the new rear end being a step forward. It is still quite difficult to draw firm conclusions in cold conditions. As last year, we are hopeful that we can make a strong start to the season, because just like the chassis side, the engine department under Luca Marmorini has done a great job. The target for '06 is to win some races and I think it should be realistic after the podiums we had last year. People on the outside expect that we could score one or two victories and I do think that should be possible."
THE POISE FROM BRAZIL
Resplendent in new crisp, white testing overalls, a quick spin did nothing to ruffle Ricardo Zonta's poise or his optimism.
Ricardo Zonta - Chassis TF106/01
Best lap time: 1m19.348s
Total laps: 66
Total distance: 292.248kms
"We lost a couple of hours at the beginning of the day because the temperatures were too cold and the track was a little dirty but by lunch time conditions were good enough to get on with the job. We did some set-up work and some electronic tuning as well, helping to understand new software, and in the afternoon we started the tyre programme. There were new constructions to work with from Bridgestone and I felt that they were positive. I felt a good improvement until I made a small mistake at Turn 8 and went into the gravel. I was able to go back out and complete the programme. Everything is improving at every test."
FRUIT OF THE LOOM
A small wiring loom fault at the end of the day was Toyota's only mechanical issue as the New Year began with promise.
Dieter Gass, Chief Race Engineer: "Today was a good start to the New Year. We covered most of the programme even though we had a small delay with Ricardo's spin. We learned something new with the tyres. The Bridgestones demand a different set-up direction and that was largely what we were working on with Ralf's car. There was a small wiring loom problem at the end of the day on that car, but nothing serious. We have continued working in the same direction as at the pre-Christmas tests and our findings are positive."