December 1996

02.12.96 - F1
Tyrrell have said there are no problems with new signing Jos Verstappen despite his absence from the official entry list for next year's F1 championship. "The problem was down to timing as we only signed him on Thursday," said team spokesman Rupert Manwaring. The list confirmed vacancies at Jordan, Ligier, Minardi and Lola. The four teams have until March 9, the day before Australian GP practice starts, to nominate their drivers for the new season.

F1 World Championship Entries:
D Hill Arrows
P Diniz Arrows
J Villeneuve Williams
HH Frentzen Williams
M Schumacher Ferrari
E Irvine Ferrari
J Alesi Benetton
G Berger Benetton
M Hakkinen McLaren
D Coulthard McLaren
R Schumacher Jordan
O Panis Ligier
S Nakano Ligier
J Herbert Sauber
N Larini Sauber
M Salo Tyrrell
R Barrichello Stewart
J Magnussen Stewart

04.12.96 - F1
Former world champion Nigel Mansell has agreed to test drive for Jordan in Barcelona next week. Team boss Eddie Jordan said: "There's no commitment from either party beyond this test. "Nigel is Britain's most successful Formula One driver of all time and it is an honour for everyone at Jordan Grand Prix to give him this run." Mansell said: "I'm delighted to have this opportunity to re-acquaint myself with a Formula One car."

05.12.96 - TOURING CARS
Double Touring Car World Cup Champion Paul Radisich will again race a Ford Mondeo in next year's Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship. The 34-year-old New Zealander will partner former BTCC champion Will Hoy in the works Ford team. The BBC will be broadcasting live coverage of six rounds of the 1997 Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship, as well as extended coverage of the other 18 BTCC rounds.

Formula One will return to Austria next season after a 10-year absence. The moves comes as part of a schedule which has been expanded to 17 races. The Austrian Grand Prix will take place on September 21 on a Zeltweg track which has undergone a complete renovation in recent years. The forest-based circuit last held a grand prix in 1987 when a deer was killed on the track after being hit by a car driven by Stefan Johansson.

Formula One teams will have to make modifications to tyres and brakes in the 1998 World Championship. Out go the slick treadless dry weather tyres, to be replaced by grooved compounds. New rules on brakes come in to increase stopping distances. Drivers will have to brake earlier on approaching corners, giving more skilful drivers the chance to overtake. The FIA also decided to reduce the maximum overall width of the cars to 180cm from the present 200cm.

08.12.96 - F1
The Benetton team boss has reportedly threatened to boycott Formula One races in Italy if there are convictions for the 1994 death of Ayrton Senna at Imola. Flavio Briatore's comments follow a magistrates' decision to clear the way for a possible trial of Frank Williams and five others on manslaughter charges. "I would not risk bringing my team to a country that can convict you for an accident," said Briatore. "Fatality is part of the game," he added in an Italain newspaper interview.

10.12.96 - F1
Jackie Stewart has completed one of the most formidable tasks he has ever faced by officially launching his new Formula One car. The three-times world champion unveiled his Stewart-Ford SF1 in London just nine months after starting design work. "To the best of my knowledge this is the first Formula One car to have been designed by computer from the outset," the Scot said. Rubens Barrichello and Jan Magnussen will drive the car in the 1997 season.

Jackie Stewart has set a modest target for his new team's debut season on the Formula One circuit. Speaking at the launch of the team's new car, he said: "I would like to win one championship point - if we get more than that I would be thrilled." He added: "Top-10 finishes and top-10 qualifying in our first year would be pretty impressive. Not many teams have ever done that. "We are financially sound, fully equipped and ready to go."

Jackie Stewart revealed during his new team launch that the car's unique Tartan design had been registered under the name Racing Stewart. It is a combination of the Royal Stewart colours he wore during his racing career and the Hunting Stewart used by his son Paul. The design is used in flashes on the predominantly white body of the car. Stewart also announced he had signed sponsorship deals with Samuel, Texaco and Bridgestone for his new team.

11.12.96 - F1
Nigel Mansell took a step further to a possible Formula One comeback as he launched himself into testing for Jordan-Peugeot in Barcelona. The 43-year-old ex-champ was slowest of the nine drivers testing but still impressed team boss Eddie Jordan. Jordan said: "This is not a publicity stunt. We're serious and so is Nigel. He wants to have a look at Jordan. "He feels he can be a major benefit to the team and he's raring to go." Testing continues on Thursday.

F1:- Nigel Mansell refused to commit himself about his future as he completed testing for Jordan in Barcelona. The former world champion was asked again if he would be returning to Formula One next season. He said: "I have always had self-belief in my ability. Racing has been in my blood for 20 years. "I think the chances I will be driving something next year are 60/40. Whether it will be in Formula One, IndyCars or something else I just don't know."

RALLYING:- Colin McRae, Kenneth Eriksson and Piero Liatti have all been retained by Subaru for their assault on next year's World Rally Championship. The trio were kept on after winning the manufacturers' championship for the second consecutive year. The Subaru plan is for McRae, Scotland's 1995 world champion, to contest all 14 rounds of the series. Eriksson and Liatti will help the team's cause by focusing their talents on gravel and asphalt surfaces.

F1:- Nigel Mansell will roar back into motor racing's big money league if he decides to make a Formula One comeback with Jordan in 1997. The 43-year-old will become the second highest-paid driver on the grid if he gets the 7m he is reportedly seeking. Germany's Michael Schumacher heads the pay list thanks to a staggering 16m a year salary from Ferrari. "We'll have to see what develops," said Mansell, following two days of testing with Jordan in Barcelona.

The RAC are to become title sponsors of the British Grand Prix after agreeing a three-year deal. The automobile organisation's name now figures in three of Britain's top motor sport events. They are the RAC Veteran Car Run, the Network Q RAC Rally and now July's RAC British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Malaysia is to build a new Formula One circuit near Kuala Lumpur which will hopefully be ready for the 1999 season.

TOURING CARS:- Former British Champion Tim Harvey will lead Peugeot's assault on the 1997 Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship, with Patrick Watts as his partner. The British duo will drive Peugeot 406s built by Motor Sport Developments, the team which turned the Honda Accord into a race-winner this year. Peugeot motor sport manager Mick Linford said: "There are no two better drivers to realise the 406's potential. They have both worked hard to develop the car," he added.

16.12.96 - F1
Formula One team chief Frank Williams and five other people are to go on trial in February on a manslaughter charge for the death of Ayrton Senna. Williams' lawyer said on Monday that the trial will take place in Italy. Roberto Causo said the first hearing had been set for February 20 before a local judge in Imola. Senna was killed at Imola after his car crashed into a wall during the San Marino Grand Prix in May 1994.

The lawyer of Frank Williams, who faces a manslaughter charge for the death of Ayrton Senna has defended the F1 chief. Williams goes on trial at Imola in February along with five others over the fatal crash in 1994. "We deny the charges absolutely," said Causo, but he declined to say if any of his clients would attend the trial. Also charged with manslaughter are Imola race track director Federico Bendinelli and former track official, Giorgio Poggi, who also deny charges.

Williams issued a short statement after learning team boss Frank Williams faces a charge over Ayrton Senna's death. "Williams is disappointed that Frank Williams, Patrick Head, technical director and Adrian Newey, chief designer, will face trial," it said. "We do not believe the charges are well founded and intend to do all that is necessary to defend our position and contest the charges." They added that they would make no further comment on the situation.

The decision to charge Frank Williams with manslaughter over Ayrton Senna's death could have serious repercussions for Formula One racing. Benetton team chief Flavio Briatore said he would boycott races in Italy if any of the Williams team were convicted. "I would not risk bringing my team to a country that can convict you for an accident," he said. Two Grand Prixs are staged in Italy every year and any boycott would throw question marks over the championship.

17.12.96 - F1
Ken Tyrrell says it may be impossible for his team to race in Italy next year after the charges brought against Frank Williams over Ayrton Senna's death. Tyrrell said: "It is difficult to understand how we can race in Italy if this is going to be the sort of situation after an accident. We are talking about an accident that happened to one of the best prepared cars in the history of motor racing. If that has an accident...I don't see how any of us can be safe."

Nigel Mansell has turned down a possible Formula One comeback with Jordan-Peugeot. The former world champion spent two days' testing for Jordan-Peugeot in Barcelona last week. Mansell said he had been seriously considering making a return to action in next year's Championship. He said: "I quickly came to realise that my schedule would not permit me to give sufficient time to the Jordan team and their sponsors."

Formula One team Lola have signed Brazilian driver Ricardo Rosset and Italian Vincenzo Sospiri. The MasterCard-backed outfit will return to the grid next March for the first time since quitting in 1993 when they supplied chassis to the Scuderia Ferrari team. Rosset was dropped by TWR Arrows for the 1997 campaign when they signed world champion Damon Hill while Sospiri, who won the 1995 F3000 title, test drove for Benetton last season.

18.12.96 - F1
Jordan are back in the driver market after former world champion Nigel Mansell spurned a 5m comeback. Mansell turned down the chance to join Jordan despite a successful two-day test with the Peugeot-powered team in Barcelona last week. Martin Brundle is now strongly-fancied to retain his seat. Jordan have also been linked with Minardi-contracted driver Giancarlo Fisichella.

Nigel Mansell has denied that he has now retired from Formula One for good after turning down the chance to drive for Jordan-Peugeot next season. There appeared to be no way back for the 1992 world champion after he rejected Eddie Jordan's approach. But the 43-year-old told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I haven't retired. Other opportunities are possibly out there. I am a very patient person, a little bit older now, and I'm just going to wait and see what is round the corner.

Minardi have signed Japanese driver Ukyo Katayama to boost their challenge for the 1997 season. Katayama had been with Britain's Tyrrell team since 1993 and will join the Italians next month. "I think Minardi will be a big surprise for many in the course of the season," the driver was quoted as saying. Minardi said last month they had begun a "long-term" plan to improve their form and they are also unveiling the new Minardi M197 by mid-January.

F1:- Formula Cars will carry aircraft-style 'black boxes' from the start of the 1997 Grand Prix season. The International Automobile Federation (FIA) hopes the equipment will help design and safety experts in the teams. The Accident Data Recorder stores information about what happens to a car immediately before and during a crash, and is virtually indestructible. "The implications for safety are very encouraging," said FIA president Max Moseley.

Benetton have sounded a warning of a serious championship challenge in 1997 when they unveiled their new car over two months before the new season. The B197 Mild Seven Benetton Renault has been tested over the last two days with Gerhard Berger completing 67 laps in rain and fog at Silverstone. The car will be officially launched on January 23. Managing director Flavio Briatore said: "We made a special effort this year to have the car ready early."

RALLYING:- England's top rally driver Richard Burns will be part of a two-pronged attack by Mitsubishi on next season's World Rally Championship. The 1996 Asia-Pacific Championship runner-up will contest at least seven events in an expanded programme. Burns said: "Although I'm not competing in the entire championship, Mitsubishi has given me a great chance to prove myself on the international stage." Reigning world champion Tommi Makinen continues as the team's number one.

23.12.96 - F1
Max Mosley fears people at the heart of Formula One could be frightened away from the sport because of fears of prosecution for just doing their jobs. Three members of the Williams team have been charged by an Italian magistrate over the 1994 death of Ayrton Senna. FIA president Mosley said Williams had a very strong defence. He added: "What we are more concerned about is the whole practice of people being prosecuted for things arising out of their sport."