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Everything you need to know for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono

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Less than two months after Dale Earnhardt Jr. won there, Pocono Raceway will again host the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend for the GoBowling.com 400.

With six regular season races left, six drivers have officially clinched a post-season berth: Earnhardt, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, and Sunday’s winner at Indianapolis, Jeff Gordon.

But with time running out, the focus will be on those still trying to get a win that will lock them into the Chase Grid.

While Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman are still looking good to make the Chase on points alone if need be, the fates of other winless drivers such as Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart remain undetermined.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the notes and numbers to keep in mind for Round 21 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…

POCONO-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Two wins, 11 top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.8
· Average Running Position of 10.4, third-best
· Driver Rating of 105.5, third-best
· 312 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 162.147 mph, third-fastest
· 2,521 Laps in the Top 15 (76.6%), fifth-most
· 722 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), eighth-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet)
· One win, eight top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.8
· Average Running Position of 14.4, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.8, 11th-best
· 79 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.624 mph, ninth-fastest
· 2,147 Laps in the Top 15 (62.2%), 11th-most
· 664 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
· Two wins, five top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 14.8
· Average Running Position of 14.4, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 96.0, sixth-best
· 176 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.774 mph, eighth-fastest
· 2,238 Laps in the Top 15 (64.8%), eighth-most
· 701 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet)
· Six wins, 19 top fives, 30 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 10.0
· Average Running Position of 10.2, second-best
· Driver Rating of 101.8, fourth-best
· 143 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 1,477 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 162.014 mph, fifth-fastest
· 2,626 Laps in the Top 15 (76.1%), second-most
· 827 Quality Passes, third-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota)
· Four wins, nine top fives, 11 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 12.1
· Average Running Position of 10.8, fourth-best
· Series-best Driver Rating of 109.0
· Series-high 434 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 162.311 mph
· 2,404 Laps in the Top 15 (78.9%), sixth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Five top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 14.0
· Average Running Position of 14.0, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.7, 12th-best
· 1,668 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 744 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 17 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 8.7
· Series-best Average Running Position of 9.8
· Driver Rating of 108.7, second-best
· 272 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 162.201 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 2,723 Laps in the Top 15 (78.9%)
· 819 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet)
· Two wins, five top fives, seven top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 18.2
· Driver Rating of 91.5, 10th-best
· 297 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 1,529 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.869 mph, sixth-fastest
· 2,057 Laps in the Top 15 (59.6%), 12th-most
· 732 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford)
· One win, three top fives, four top 10s
· Average finish of 12.3
· Driver Rating of 92.8, ninth-best
· 96 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most

Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 5.0
· Average Running Position of 13.3, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 96.0, seventh-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 162.080 mph, fourth-fastest

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet)
· One win, nine top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 11.5
· Average Running Position of 11.2, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.8, eighth-best
· 1,522 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.617 mph, 10th-fastest
· 2,598 Laps in the Top 15 (75.3%), third-most
· Series-high 851 Quality Passes

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Code 3 / Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Two wins, 12 top fives, 22 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 11.0
· Average Running Position of 11.8, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 98.9, fifth-best
· 99 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 1,620 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.830 mph, seventh-fastest
· 2,549 Laps in the Top 15 (73.8%), fourth-most
· 840 Quality Passes, second-most

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Pocono Raceway Track Data
Season Race #: 21 of 36 (08-04-14)
Track Size: 2.5-miles
Banking/Turn 1: 14 degrees
Banking/Turn 2: 8 degrees
Banking/Turn 3: 6 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 3,740 feet
Backstretch Length: 3,055 feet
Shortstretch Length: 1,780 feet
Race Length: 160 laps / 400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Pocono
Denny Hamlin………………………. 109.0
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 108.7
Kurt Busch………………………….. 105.5
Jeff Gordon………………………… 101.8
Tony Stewart…………………………. 98.9
Carl Edwards………………………… 96.0
Kyle Larson………………………….. 96.0
Ryan Newman……………………….. 95.8
Brad Keselowski……………………. 92.8
Kasey Kahne………………………… 91.5
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Pocono Raceway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 180.654 mph, 49.819 secs., 08-02-13
2013 race winner: Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 129.009 mph, (03:06:02), 08-04-13
Track qualifying record: Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 181.415 mph, 49.610 secs., 06-06-14
Track race record: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 145.384 mph, (03:26:21), 06-12-11

Pocono Raceway History
· Opened in 1968 as a three-quarter-mile track, Pocono Raceway held the first race on the 2.5-mile track in 1971.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was in 1974 – won by Richard Petty, Dodge, 115.593 mph, 08/04/1974.
· The 2.5-mile track was repaved during the fall of 2011.

Pocono Raceway Notebook
· There have been 73 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono Raceway, one race from 1974 through 1981, and two per year since.
· 2012 marked the first season the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono were scheduled for 400 miles. Prior to 2012 all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races were 500 miles at Pocono Raceway.
· 322 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway; 222 in more than one.
· Ricky Rudd leads the series in starts at Pocono with 55. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 43 starts.
· Buddy Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Pocono in 1974 with a speed of 144.122 mph.
· 39 drivers have posted Coors Light poles at Pocono, led by Bill Elliott and Ken Schrader with five each; Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin lead all active drivers with three each.
· Five drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Pocono. Bill Elliott holds the record for most consecutive poles at Pocono with three; fall 1984 and both races in 1985.
· Two active drivers have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Pocono: Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep) and Joey Logano (fall 2011 and spring 2012).
· Youngest Pocono pole winner: Joey Logano (08/07/2011 – 21 years, 2 months, 14 days).
· Oldest Pocono pole winner: David Pearson (06/10/1984 – 49 years, 5 months, 19 days).
· 32 different drivers have won at Pocono Raceway, led by Jeff Gordon with six wins.
· Six drivers have posted consecutive wins at Pocono Raceway, including three consecutive by Bobby Allison (1982 sweep and spring 1983) and Tim Richmond (1986 sweep and spring 1987).
· Dale Earnhardt Jr., winner of the June Pocono race, will attempt to capture the second season sweep of his career, and first since Talladega in 2002.
· Youngest Pocono winner: Joey Logano (06/10/2012 – 22 years, 0 months, 17 days).
· Oldest Pocono winner: Harry Gant (06/17/1990 – 50 years, 5 months, 7 days).
· Hendrick Motorsportshas the most wins at Pocono in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 16: Jeff Gordon (six), Tim Richmond (three), Jimmie Johnson (three), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (one), Kasey Kahne (one), Geoff Bodine (one) and Terry Labonte (one) – including the last four consecutively.
· Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Pocono; led by Chevrolet with 29 victories; followed by Ford with 21.
· 15 of the 73 (20.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Jimmie Johnson (June, 2013).
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (15) than any other starting position at Pocono Raceway.
· 24 of the 73 (32.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from the front row: 15 from the pole and nine from second-place.
· 51 of the 73 (69.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Five of the 73 (6.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Pocono is 29th, by Carl Edwards in the spring of 2005.
· Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Pocono with seven; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-five finishes at Pocono with 20; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 19.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Pocono with 34; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 30.
· Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Pocono with a 6.176.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Pocono with an 8.720.
· Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are the only two active drivers towin at Pocono in their first appearances.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Pocono without visiting Victory Lane at 38; followed by Matt Kenseth with 29 and Kevin Harvick with 27.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway was the July 23, 2000 race won by Rusty Wallace over Jeff Burton with a MOV of 0.126 second.
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Pocono Raceway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): spring of 2005 (200/201); fall of 2005 (200/203); spring of 2010 (200/204).
· Six of the 73 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the event on 8/5/2012.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway five times; most recently the spring of 2013.
· Casey Mears (8/1/2004) posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Pocono Raceway.
· One active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has posted his first career win at Pocono Raceway: Denny Hamlin (06/11/06).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Pocono with 974 laps led in 43 starts.
· Two female drivers have competed at Pocono Raceway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie and Danica Patrick.
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NASCAR in Pennsylvania
· There have been 107 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among nine tracks in Pennsylvania.
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· 141 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Pennsylvania.
· Three of the 141 have won in NASCAR’s premiere series: Dick Linder (3 Sprint Cup), Jimmy Spencer (2 Cup, 12 Nationwide, 1 Truck), and Mark Donohue (1 Cup).

McLaren confirms F1 testing running schedule for Barcelona

Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 24 February 2017.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _R3I5192
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McLaren has become the latest team to confirm its running schedule for the upcoming Formula 1 pre-season test days in Barcelona, Spain.

McLaren launched its new car, the MCL32, at its base in Woking, England on Friday, with drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne on-hand to unveil the team’s new orange look.

Alonso and Vandoorne will split testing duties next week with the start of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Monday.

Alonso will enjoy the first public run behind the wheel of the MCL32 on Monday before handing over to Vandoorne on Tuesday. Alonso returns on Wednesday, with Vandoorne then closing out the first test on Thursday.

McLaren is also set to complete a filming day in Barcelona on Sunday, which will represent the first on-track running for the MCL32 after an extensive development phase.

Ed Carpenter Racing drivers face crucial 2017 season

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Photo: Mike Finnegan/Sonoma Raceway
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On paper, Ed Carpenter Racing could be in for a banner year in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series.

The open test at Phoenix International Raceway served notice that their cars are quick, with JR Hildebrand turning the fastest lap across the two-day test. Throw in up-and-coming Spencer Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion who will again contest the road and street events in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, and team owner Ed Carpenter, known for his oval prowess, and their driver lineup looks as stout as any among the 2017 entries.

However, it is also a year of vital importance, particularly for the aforementioned Hildebrand and Pigot.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 19: JR Hildebrand, driver of the #21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Dallara is seen on the track during practice for the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 19, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

To say that JR Hildebrand has something to prove might be an understatement. Once a promising up-and-comer who won the Indy Lights title in 2009, Hildebrand’s career has been in limbo since he and Panther Racing parted ways after the 2013 Indianapolis 500. Though he showed promise and speed in his brief tenure with John Barnes’ old team, his time there was somewhat star-crossed.

He infamously crashed out of the lead on the final lap of the 2011 Indianapolis 500. He was dominating the 2012 MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway before he brushed the wall and damaged the right-rear suspension. During a caution period at the 2013 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, he ran up and over race leader Will Power after briefly looking down to make an adjustment on his steering wheel. And, in what proved to be his final outing as a full-time driver, he crashed on lap 4 of the 2013 Indianapolis 500.

Since then, Hildebrand has only been a part-time competitor, only running entries at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis and the Indy 500. In fact, as he explained at the Phoenix test, he didn’t even dip his feet into sports car racing, as many open wheel drivers do when they’re not driving IndyCars.

“No, I have not (pursued opportunities in sports cars). I’ve been hanging out with these guys (Ed Carpenter Racing) trying to get back to being full-time in IndyCar,” he explained during the Phoenix test.

He later explained that, while he was also busy promoting STEM and other education initiatives, limited opportunities in sports car racing made venturing into that discipline less than ideal. “Since GRAND-AM and IMSA have combined, there’s just kind of fewer of the prototype drives and the GTLM, which is an amazing category…there’s a lot of factory guys there. It’s a little bit of a tricky thing to work your way into, particularly if it’s a part-time thing, I’ve found.”

Perhaps the most important piece of driving he has ever done, though, came in relief of Josef Newgarden after he broke his hand and collarbone at Texas Motor Speedway last year. Hildebrand filled in for Newgarden at tests at Road America, Iowa Speedway, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which he said helped keep the rust off and prove his value to the team.

“Those are all places where you’re doing something fairly different,” he said of time as a relief driver. “And so for me to have that added familiarity with the types of things, particularly that Josef was looking for in the race car, somebody who clearly had been finding what he was looking for, knew what he was looking for and was making good on that on the track, you know, that was really valuable for me.”

Expectations are high for Hildebrand on his return. It’s obvious that the 29-year-old still possesses all the talent he displayed in junior categories and in his brief time as an IndyCar driver. And Ed Carpenter Racing does not look like it’s missed a beat with Newgarden’s departure. Hildebrand echoed those expectations and firmly believes he should contend for victories.

“A successful season for us is me picking up my first race win, wherever that ends up being,” he asserted after a recent test at Sonoma Raceway. “That is absolutely a goal of ours to be in the Winner’s Circle. For me there is no doubt that my goal is to come into this season with a number of road and street courses on the schedule and be consistently in contention at those places.”

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While Hildebrand has garnered much of the hype, teammate Spencer Pigot is not to be forgotten. While he stepped up at least part-time last year before it grew into the rest of the season, it was still a challenge. He began with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing on a three-race deal before joining Ed Carpenter Racing to run the road and street courses after the Indy 500.

Pigot’s results were unspectacular, but he did improve as the year continued. The 23-year-old scored a pair of top tens at Road America and Mid-Ohio and showed an increase in raw speed in the second half of the season.

However, Pigot’s second season will be pivotal for his IndyCar future. Evidence of this can be found in three other recent Indy Lights champions: Tristan Vautier, Sage Karam, and Gabby Chaves. Each was relegated to part-time drives following their rookie campaigns and only Karam is currently slated to run any IndyCar races this year (he announced an Indy 500 entry with Dreyer and Reinbold Racing earlier in February).

In one way, Pigot already has an advantage over Vautier, Karam, and Chaves in that he will contest a second season, and for the same team as well. Consequently, his second season in the Verizon IndyCar Series provides a chance to firmly establish himself as a top-level driver after spending his rookie year learning the cars and series. Perhaps the most important aspect of his driving he’ll need to improve on is his qualifying pace. Only four times did he qualify better than 20th and he often struggled to get the most out of the softer, red-walled Firestones.

While he didn’t reveal many details after the ECR test outing at Sonoma, Pigot did express confidence that he and the team are going in the right direction.

“It’s been a while since we were (at Sonoma Raceway) and it’s been since September since I drove the car, so I’m excited to be back in an IndyCar and so far so good. We had a really productive morning, and we’ve been sticking to our test plan, which we spent a lot of time going over before we got here in order to maximize our day,” Pigot said after the February 14 test.

The performance of Ed Carpenter Racing has been one of most positive stories in the Verizon IndyCar Series since the team debuted in 2012. And for Hildebrand and Pigot, the organization gives them a chance to cement their IndyCar careers.

Sebastian Vettel: New Ferrari Formula 1 car ‘a step forward’

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Sebastian Vettel feels that Ferrari’s new Formula 1 car feels like “a step forward” after enjoying his first test with the SF70H at Fiorano on Friday.

Ferrari unveiled its new F1 car on Friday before sending it out on-track for the first time at its private test track, with Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen both enjoying laps behind the wheel as part of a filming day.

Speaking after his first run in the car, Vettel said that he was immediately impressed by the SF70H.

“You can see it’s a step forward. You can feel it’s a step forward,” Vettel said.

“It’s fun to drive. The car is quite big. It looks quite strong from the outside, but also the first impression is the right one.

“The conditions are not how they’re gonna be in Australia but today we didn’t have any problems. So it was a good day and a good start.”

All 10 F1 teams have faced a big technical challenge in preparation for 2017 following an overhaul of the technical regulation that will make the cars significantly quicker, resulting in a more aggressive look.

“Clearly a new season is a new challenge, but especially this season with new aero and overall regulations, even more a challenge,” Ferrari technical chief Mattia Binotto said.

“The challenge in F1 is always the same. It’s not just being good, but being the first. Being the first means to develop faster than everyone else. Being faster means to increase the rate of development and really speed up.

“The challenge is now even more than in the past to speed up the development. Whoever has been fast and first in the development will be at the front of the grid at the start in Australia.”

Ferrari will next hit the track in Barcelona, Spain on Monday February 27 with the start of collective pre-season testing.

Williams releases official images of FW40 Formula 1 car

Williams Martini Racing FW40 Mercedes Launch.
Grove, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom.
February, 2017.
The Williams FW40 Mercedes pre-test photo shoot.
Photo: Drew Gibson/Williams
Ref: FW40 angle - 19
© Williams Martini Racing
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Williams has officially launched its new car for the 2017 Formula 1 season, the FW40, by releasing in-the-flesh images on Saturday.

Williams was the first team to present its new-look car for 2017, releasing a set of renders eight days ago ahead of today’s official launch.

The team issued the real-life images of its car on Saturday, two days before the start of pre-season testing in Barcelona, Spain.

Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll will pilot the FW40 through 2017 as the team celebrates 40 years of racing in F1.

Massa returns despite originally planning to retire from F1 at the end of last year, with his comeback being agreed following Valtteri Bottas’ move to Mercedes.

Stroll arrives in F1 as one of its youngest ever drivers, having won the FIA European Formula 3 title last season with Prema Powerteam.

Williams enters 2017 looking to bounce back from a disappointing campaign that saw it fall from third to fifth in the constructors’ championship, dropping behind Red Bull and Force India in the pecking order.

The FW40 follows the example set by the other teams with their 2017-spec cars, falling in line with the radical new technical regulations that have resulted in an aggressive look from teams.

The FW40 retains its thumb nose and also sports a large ‘shark fin’ engine cover that has also been implemented by a number of other teams.

Williams Martini Racing FW40 Mercedes Launch. Grove, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. February, 2017. The Williams FW40 Mercedes pre-test photo shoot. Photo: Drew Gibson/Williams Ref: FW40 side - 18
Photo: Drew Gibson/Williams
Photo: Drew Gibson/Williams Ref: Heritage 001 - 18
Photo: Drew Gibson/Williams

Williams’ new car will hit the track for the first time in Barcelona on Monday with the start of pre-season testing.