New Beginning For Jordan

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A new era at Jordan Grand Prix began Wednesday, as 2002 drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and rookie Takuma Sato took to the track for the first time since coming to the team in last year’s surprisingly hectic silly season.

But the paths of glory are different for 2001 British F3 champion Sato and Fisichella. While Sato was brought in because of Honda’s pressure to see a Japanese driver succeed, Fisichella returns to a Jordan much different than the one he left after racing there in 1997. A once solid competitive team is in the middle of restructuring itself at every level.

Since the Italian driver scored 20 points with two podium finishes, racing alongside Ralf Schumacher in ’97, the Silverstone-based team has gone through five different drivers in the last three years. Four drivers raced yellow Hondas last year alone, including the departed Jarno Trulli, the fired Heinz-Harald Frentzen, the retired Jean Alesi, and the test driver/spot starter Ricardo Zonta.

Sure, 1999 saw Frentzen finish third in the World Championship standings and Jordan finish third in the Constructor’s standings, but that’s as good it’s been for the team.

Regardless of past turmoil, Fisichella said he is ready to start anew after struggling to score eight points with Benetton last year. Fisichella was fourth fastest in testing at Spain's Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Wednesday. David Coulthard was fastest for the second day in a row, followed by Luca Badoer in a Ferrari, and Jenson Button.

Fisichella spent most of the morning testing session getting used to the Jordan Honda EJ11, which the team will continue to use through at least the end of this week. He then worked on some chassis and aerodynamic set-up work during the afternoon.

“I’ve had a good day overall and it feels great to be back in a car after having the last two months away from the track,” said Fisichella, who is testing with the 2001 model Honda EJ11. “I am really happy as well to be back at Jordan and being with the team today has been just like coming home. Everybody is really friendly and I know a lot of the mechanics as they were with Jordan in 1997 when I last raced for the team.

“I've spent the day familiarizing myself with the car and I am quite impressed with the EJ11 and the Honda engine. I'm looking forward to the next few days of testing and feel very optimistic for this year ahead.”

Trulli was sixth fastest in his Renault machine, followed by Schumacher, and Sauber drivers Nick Heidfeld and Felipe Massa. Luciano Burti was ninth fastest on Wednesday in his Ferrari machine.

Sato was 11th fastest on another rainy day, Wednesday, sandwiched between fellow Honda drivers Olivier Panis and Jacques Villeneuve of British American Racing. Though Villeneuve’s time was only 12th fastest, the Canadian former World champion raved about the new BAR Honda 004.

“The car has definitely improved and there's a lot more still to come,” Villeneuve said. “Also, the engine is still in its infancy so there's a lot more to come from that as well. There's good reason to be positive though. This year, the mechanical side of the car feels much better. The rear is a lot more stable, and in high speeds the car seems to be more stable as well. As this is just a first preliminary test there will be some more changes for the next test so I'll be back in the car then.

“We knew there was going to be a big difference in the car this year and so it's nice to get in it and see those improvements. The car feels good so I'm feeling positive.”

Following an early morning lap of the circuit in a road car, Sato worked on car and track familiarization and driver comfort fine-tuning, turning his efforts to traction control and control systems work in the afternoon.

“It's great to be back testing in a Formula One car and also spend time getting to know the teams at Jordan and Honda,” Sato said. “Everybody is very professional and I'm looking forward to becoming more involved in the team atmosphere. Due to the changeable track conditions it has been hard to work through the testing program today, but I was still able to benefit from the day's running by concentrating on familiarizing myself with the car and its control systems.

“These next few weeks of testing are very important to me and I'm excited to be at Jordan and working alongside Giancarlo, and very much looking forward to my debut Grand Prix in Australia.”

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