An Island Hop... for F1 Drivers to Start and Stop

By: Roger Munns

The island of Menorca is a great place for sun, sand, and surf - less known is that it's also a great place for sports - motorsports that is, especially the Formula 1 kind.

Late 2007 saw some F1 teams hop over to Menorca to utilize the Real Aeroclub de Mahon airstrip for testing. This airfield, under the care of club president Jose Villalonga, is close to 2 kilometers long. It's an ideal strip for aerodynamic and speed testing fine-tuned Formula 1 racecars.

Menorca is part of the Balearic Islands, which belong to Spain. It's located in the western Mediterranean and is actually part of an archipelago. This archipelago includes Majorca, Ibiza, Formentera, and other islands. Mahon is the largest city on this island, an island with over 120 beaches. These beaches are especially suitable for unwinding after a wild day of high-speed test-driving.

One team to test here was Ferrari. Spanish driver Marc Gene was their tester. Ferrari tested cars for 2008, when they will attempt to defend their Formula 1 title. The Ferrari cars of Kimi Raikkonen, the Finnish defending driver's Champion, and Felipe Massa of Brazil were tested here.

Mercedes McLaren and Honda also tested their cars on this privately- owned airfield on Menorca. BMW Sauber and Toyota are interested in this 'straight-line' testing for 2008 as well. They plan to be on Menorca to put their cars through their grueling paces. Jose Villalonga has the welcome mat out to encourage these state-of-the-art car teams to visit Menorca.

The airstrip at Mahon recently underwent repairs to enhance its safety. It's now faster, with an ideal surface for this 'straight-line' testing. These high-performance Formula 1 cars are the thoroughbreds of motorsports with amazing 'horsepower'.

Ferrari, seeking to remain the number one Grand Prix circuit team, tested their high-tech machines at speeds up to 300 kilometers per hour. That's also how fast thoughts of the workplace disappear, once you're on this lush island known for its leisure qualities.

Ferrari has fifty-seven years of competition under their belts in Formula 1. Their first F1 race was May 21, 1950 in Monaco. In 2007, they stood atop the podium as champions once again. Theirs is a rich history filled with the joy and heartbreak that is part of the Grand Prix circuit.

This famous racing company also recently unveiled their new F2008 F1 car. Ready for the new season that kicks off in Australia, this racecar was first tested under the guidance of Kimi Raikkonen in early January. To conform to new regulations the car is heavier. It also has new gearbox specifications, and a new standard electronic system that all Formula 1 cars must use.

This is the 54th F1 car that Ferrari has issued for racing in their long history. It's another version of the classic red flash motorsports fans are used to seeing on the Grand Prix raceways.

Formula one teams like Ferrari, McLaren, and Honda added an element of high-speed excitement to Menorca. The thrill of racing was a counterpoint to the tranquil atmosphere of this island oasis.

What more could F1 testers ask for? They had breezy island charms and F1's chills-down-your-spine excitement all at one time in Menorca.

They should be rested and ready to go in March when the new Formula 1 season begins.

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