ANY doubt about David Coulthard's ability to handle Formula One power

has evaporated following an impressive test session on a damp

Silverstone track with the Benetton-Ford team.

Coulthard reeled off 50 laps in the 700hp grand prix machine, posting

a fastest lap round the Northamptonshire circuit which would have

eclipsed team regular Michael Schumacher's British Grand Prix qualifying

time in similar conditions last July.

The 21-year-old Scot, whose motor-racing career started in 1989, had

only one regret -- that the test run did not last longer.

Coulthard, from Twynholm, near Kirkcudbright, said: ''I felt very

relaxed and wanted more. Adjusting to the speed of the car was not a

problem. The engine was so smooth and the car so responsive.''

Although neither of Benetton's senior directors, Tom Walkinshaw nor

Flavio Briatore, who arranged the run, were present, team personnel were

delighted with Coulthard's debut performance.

The engineers were impressed with his ability to adapt to a sensitive

F1 chassis and nearly 300hp more power than he deals with in F3000 while

providing accurate technical feedback.

With Benetton committed to running the forceful German Schumacher and

Italian veteran Riccardo Patrese next year, Coulthard would be more than

happy to supplement his F3000 campaign with a testing contract although

Benetton have used another Italian, Alessandro Zanardi, as its

development driver this season.

Meanwhile, several F3000 teams are involved in discussions with

Coulthard, whose backers this year included The Herald.

An earlier Benetton trial at Silverstone involving Giovanni Bonanno,

from Sicily, ended abruptly as he lost control and hit the trackside

barriers, severely damaging the rear of the car.