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Boullion runs Schumacher close in test

The Frenchman Jean-Christophe Boullion outlined his growing confidence and speed yesterday when he almost matched the time of the world champion, Michael Schumacher, during Formula One testing in Barcelona.

Boullion, who is the official test driver for the Williams- Renault team, clocked 1min 21.97sec, just 0.06 of a second slower than the time Schumacher set in his Benetton-Renault.

Such was the admiration for Boullion's time that the Benetton team tried in vain throughout the afternoon to post a faster lap and extend their advantage.

Finland's Mika Hakkinen was third fastest in the McLaren-Mercedes, but he was unable to approach the pace of the quicker cars. His fastest lap of 1:24.42 was almost three seconds off the pace.

Damon Hill will take over the Williams-Renault car today for the final two days of testing. Having been out-paced by Schumacher during last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, in which he finished fourth, he will be keen to re- affirm his position as world championship favourite before the next race at Monaco on 28 May.