February 1996

02.02.96 - F1
Frank Williams and Patrick Head are facing an anxious wait to hear if they will be charged with manslaughter over death of Ayrton Senna at Imola. A story in The Independent newspaper claims that the two senior officials of the Williams Formula One team are set to be charged in the next 10 days. Prosecution officials in Bologna have denied the report though, stating that no decision has been reached at this stage. A spokesman dismissed the claims as 'suppositions'. Senna died in 1994 when his Williams car crashed at the San Marino GP.

The French Federation have chosen the Le Castellet circuit to host their Grand Prix for five years from 1997. The FIA now have to approve the new choice to replace Magny-Cours which has staged the race since 1990.

03.02.96 - Daytona 24hrs
The pole-winning Ferrari 333SP World Sports Car held the lead at the start of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. Seventy five cars, the biggest field in recent years, started on the 3.56-mile road circuit, getting through the first few laps without incident. Italian Gianpiero Moretti, owner of the blood red Ferrari that was put on pole in record-setting fashion by Didier Theys of Belgium, started in the open-cockpit car and set the early pace. Wayne Taylor, driving an Oldsmobile MK III, held onto second spot ahead of Belgian Eric Van de Poele.

An Oldsmobile Mark III World Sports Car team has gone into the lead at the halfway point after exhaust problems took away Ferrari's four-lap margin. A misty rain also made the circuit treacherous as darkness fell, prompting a rash of spins and accidents. The worst crash came in the seventh hour when two GT-1 Porsche 911 Turbos tangled, causing veteran Bill Adam to roll several times. He was not hurt. Irv Hoerr, driving for the Oldsmobile Aurora GT-1 team, also escaped injury when his car was gutted after catching fire.

04.02.96 - Daytona 24hrs
An Oldsmobile Mark III driven by Wayne Taylor, Scott Sharp and Jim Pace held off a Ferrari 333SP in the closest Rolex 24-Hours in history. Max Papis, a Ferrari Formula One test driver, gave it a brave effort in the final two hours, making up a four-lap deficit and twice passing Taylor to get back on the lead lap. However, the youngster was forced to stop for fuel and tires with about 15 minutes remaining, ending any chance of catching the debuting Mark III chassis.It was the first all American-made winner in 34 years of the competition.

05.02.96 - F1
Finland's Mika Hakkinen has driven a McLaren for the first time since his horrific crash during practice for last November's Australian Grand Prix. Hakkinen, who spent 24 hours in a coma at Adelaide, completed about 30 laps in a private practice at the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet, France. He was close to times clocked on Sunday by Brazilian Rubens Barrichello in a Jordan-Peugeot and was monitored by McLaren team consultant Alain Prost and his manager Keke Rosberg. McLaren's 1996 car is due to be unveiled on Sunday.

Benetton have launched their defence of the Formula One constructors' title by taking the wraps of their new B196 car at Taormina in Sicily. Team boss Flavio Briatore said they were highly motivated by the defection of Michael Schumacher to Ferrari and would mount a powerful challenge. "This has fired the team up and we want to make a strong start again this year," he commented. The new Renault-powered car, to be driven by Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger, features a new suspension system and revised rear aerodynamics.

06.02.96 - F1
Japanese driver Takachiho Inoue has joined Minardi for the 1996 season, the Italian Formula One team have announced. Inoue, who will move from the Footwork team, would make his debut on February 14 at Estoril in Portugal when Minardi unveil their new car. Inoue will partner Portugal's Pedro Lamy, who signed with Minardi for a further season last month.

08.02.96 - SWEDISH RALLY
Scotland's Colin McRae begins a lengthy 10-month campaign to retain his World title when the Swedish rally begins in Karlstad on Friday. The three-day event is held over 1,677kms of high-speed, snow-covered tracks in temperatures which can dip as low as minus 30 degrees celsius. "I think it's going to be a very tough, competitive rally. My chances are quite good," said McRae. "The main opposition is going to be my teammate Kenneth Eriksson, Tommi Makinen in the Mitsubishi and Juha Kankkunen," he added.

FIA president Max Mosley has announced a major expansion of the World Rally Championship, currently held by Scotland's Colin McRae. "In 1997 we will have 14 events. That will then rise to 16. We've got to get it out of the little club level," said Mosley. And he insisted extra rallies would raise the championship's profile and dismissed suggestions it would impose too severe a burden on top drivers. "If you cut the number of rallies, they'd only increase the amount of time testing," Mosley added.

SWEDISH RALLY:- Colin McRae seemed to hit the skids as he began the defence of his world rally championship title on the snow and ice-covered track in Sweden. McRae fell back to fifth at the end of the first day, more than a minute and half behind rally leader Tommi Makinen. He suffered transmission difficulties which upset the handling of his works Subaru and also struggled with his tyre gripping due to the lack of snow. "It's very difficult to drive. You can't tell what it's going to do in the corners," said an angry McRae, who had slid off the road on occasions.

Positions after 9 of 27 stages:
(end of first day)           mins secs
 1 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi  1:51.06
 2 J Kankkunen Fin Toyota      1:51.12
 3 C Sainz     Sp  Ford Escort 1:51.20
 4 A Vatanen   Fin Ford Escort 1:52.21
 5 C McRae     GB  Subaru      1:52.41
 6 K Eriksson  Swe Subaru      1:52.45
 7 T Jansson   Swe Toyota      1:52.59
 8 M Gronholm  Fin Toyota      1:53.03
 9 S Blomqvist Swe Ford Escort 1:53.10
10 D Auriol    Fr  Subaru      1:53.38 

SCOTS RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP:- Jon Burn is the surprise front runner for Saturday's SVL Thistle Snowman Rally, the opening round of this year's nationalScottish Rally Championship. Top seed John Baird is unable to take part so Burn's Ford Sierra heads an entry of over 90 cars for the Inverness based event. Burn has never won a round of the Scottish series and will be pushed all the way by Chris Wagner, who so nearly won the 1995 title. Other challengers include George Gauld, Raymond Munro, Walter Henderson and four times champion Drew Gallacher.

WYEDEAN FOREST RALLY:- The Wyedean Forest Rally will go ahead as planned on Saturday in spite of the large quantities of snow which have fallen in the Forest of Dean recently. Event organisers have been able to clear the route sufficiently to allow the rally to take place. A capacity entry of 180 crews will start from Coleford for the first of eleven special stages. Last year's Gold Star champion Ricky Evans is one of the favourites along with Andy Burton, who won the event last year.

F1:- Four-times world champion Alain Prost tested McLaren-Mercedes' new MP4/11 on Saturday at Estoril, clocking a best time of 1 minute 29.03 seconds. Prost took the new car for six laps around the 4.36 kilometre circuit before it will be officially presented on Sunday. Gerhard Berger was also on track and took his new B-106 Benetton-Renault to a fastest lap time of 2:27.00. Japan's Ukyo Katayama was fastest of the day in his Tyrrel-Yamaha when he clocked a time of 1:22.31.

SWEDISH RALLY:- World champion Colin McRae slid off the track on the second day on SS14 but recovered to push his Subaru to fourth. McRae struggled with transmission trouble on day one and found his tyres unsuited to the light snow conditions. Finn Tommi Makinen maintained his lead in his Mitsubishi from Carlos Sainz in a works Ford after overcoming fresh snow and a brake problem. McRae said he hoped more snow would shake the field up on the final day: "Anything can happen if it snows, but that's our only chance. It would be good after what happened yesterday."

Positions after 22 of 27 stages:
(end of day two)              mins secs
 1 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi  3:34.42
 2 C Sainz     Sp  Ford Escort 3:34.57
 3 J Kankkunen Fin Toyota      3:35.18
 4 C McRae     GB  Subaru      3:35.58
 5 A Vatanen   Fin Ford Escort 3:36.44
 6 K Eriksson  Swe Subaru      3:36.50
 7 T Radstrom  Swe Toyota      3:37.36
 8 M Gronholm  Fin Toyota      3:38.19
 9 S Blomqvist Swe Subaru      3:39.52
10 T Jansson   Swe Toyota      3:39.54

SNOWMAN RALLY:- Andy Horne (MG Metro) was on superb form on the second visit to the large Monaughty Forest complex, grabbing the lead with the best time on SS5. Conditions were slightly improved with more mud than ice and Horne overhauled long time leader Jimmy Christie to finish 16 seconds clear.

Final positions in the SVL Thistle
Snowman Rally (provisional):mins secs
1 A Horne      MG Metro       51.40
2 J Christie   MG Metro       51.56
3 J Burn       Sierra Cos     52.57
4 S Dalgarno   Escort Cos     53.46
5 G Gauld      Escort Cos     54.18

WYEDEAN RALLY:- Dave Jenkins (Escort Cosworth) won the opening round of the Peugeot Gold Star Championship on his home patch. Jenkins, who lives in the Forest of Dean, pipped Leominster's Theo Bengry, while last year's winner Andy Burton retired because of gearbox problems.

Final positions in the 21st Wyedean
Forest Rally (provisional):mins secs
1 Jenkins    Escort Cos      49.46
2 Bengry     Escort RS       50.17
3 Curran     Escort Cos      50.26
4 Elliott    Escort RS       50.52
5 Tough      Escort RS       50.54

11.02.96 - SWEDISH RALLY
Finland's Tommi Makinen hung on for victory in a dramatic finish to the Swedish International Rally. Carlos Sainz was poised to challenge on the final stage after cutting Makinen's lead to 12 secs with a superb display but a broken shock absorber forced him to settle for second in his Escort. Defending world champion Colin McRae did well to come home third after a minor accident and problems with his tyres early in the event. "If the tyres had been alright we could have won. It's a bit frustrating, but at least we got some points," he said.

Colin McRae battled into third place with a determined display on the final day of the Swedish Rally, the opening round of the FIA World Championship. The Scottish world champion set the fastest time on the first of the final five stages on Sunday to close the gap on Juha Kankkunen, who spun on the same stage losing a further 23 seconds. McRae kept up the pressure in his works Subaru Impreza 555, overhauling the Finn two stages later after another fearless effort on the slippery tracks. "Our early attack on Juha paid off as he made a mistake," commented McRae.

Result after 27 stages:       mins secs
 1 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi  4:37.10
 2 C Sainz     Sp  Ford Escort 4:37.33
 3 C McRae     GB  Subaru      4:38.15
 4 J Kankkunen Fin Toyota      4:38.38
 5 K Eriksson  Swe Subaru      4:39.36
 6 T Radstrom  Swe Toyota      4:40.00
 7 M Gronholm  Fin Toyota      4:41.58
 8 S Blomqvist Swe Ford Escort 4:42.56
 9 D Auriol    Fr  Subaru      4:43.54
10 T Jansson   Swe Toyota      4:43.56

12.02.96 - F1
Canadian Jacques Villeneuve has warned Williams colleague Damon Hill to expect no favours this year. Speaking as Williams unveiled its new FW18 car at Estoril, Portugal, Villeneuve said Hill could be the most important scalp in his first F1 season. "We're not out there to help each other and there's no reason to," said last year's IndyCar champion. "In anyone's career it is important to win and to beat everyone else." Both drivers have clocked fast times in testing of the Renault V10-powered FW18.

F1:- Michael Schumacher has ruled himself out of the running for this year's Formula One title as Ferrari launched their 1996 car. Schumacher, who left Benetton at the end of last season to join Ferrari, said: "I am not playing down my chances, but I have to be realistic. We are starting something new here. I felt quite empty after spending four and a half years at Benetton - we'd achieved everything together. But I have plenty of motivation now. I needed a new challenge and I've got that here."

Damon Hill took advantage of brighter weather at Estoril to set a fast pace in his new Williams-Renault. Hill clocked the fastest lap of the day of 1 min 21.64 secs as five Formula One teams put their cars to the test. Brazilian Rubens Barrichello was less than a second slower, lapping in 1:22.59 in his Jordan-Peugeot during a run-out of 67 laps. Hill did just 27. Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger were close behind in the Benetton-Renaults, recording laps of 1:22.91 and 1:23.03 respectively. Berger's time was matched by Martin Brundle in the second Jordan.

ASIA-PACIFIC RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP:- World champion Colin McRae has been named in the 555 Subaru line-up along with Kennith Eriksson as the team bid to regain the Asia-Pacific crown. McRae will take part in half the Championship rounds, starting with the Rally of Thailand where the Subaru team won in 1993 and were second in '94. The team also includes Piero Liatti. "Both my teammates have warned me of numerous hazards on this rally but I'm looking forward to the high speed stages," declared the Scot. The Rally of Indonesia and Rally Australia are Asia and world rounds.

CHEVIOT STAGES RALLY:- Last year's event winner John Brodie will be first away in his MG Metro 6R4 in round one of the EARS Motorsport/Motoring News National Rally series. Pete Doughty, the '95 EARS/MN champion, is missing with his new Escort Cosworth unfinished so runner-up Richard Moore starts at number two in his ex-Colin McRae Subaru Impreza. EARS boss Mike Pattison, winner of the recent Lindisfarne Rally, will be next away in his Escort ahead of another strong challenger John Price in a Metro. The rally gets underway from Newcastle-on-Tyne on Sunday morning.

16.02.96 - RALLYING
Finland's Ari Mokkonen is following in the footsteps of Carlos Sainz in his quest for glory. He will drive a four-wheel drive Group A Ford Escort on six rounds of this year's World Rally Championship and four rounds of the British event. And his car will be built and run by Mike Little Preparations, who ran Sainz's victorious 1987 and 1988 Spanish Rally Championship campaigns. The Finn will be partnered by co-driver Voitto Silander and Mokkonen said: "I'm looking forward to driving a Ford on such a big programme."

Former champion John Price overhauled early leader John Brodie to win the first round of the EARS Motorsport/Motoring News National Rally Series. Price in a Metro 6R4 finished the 12 stages, mostly held on the Otterburn Military Ranges near Newcastle, with a 13-second lead over Brodie. Earlier Richard Moore, runner-up in the series in 1995, was taken to hospital with a crushed vertebrae after a heavy landing in his Subaru on SS8. He could miss the second round in a month's time. Series sponsor Mike Pattison went off on SS4 and was forced to retire.

Final leaderboard after 12 stages:mins secs
 1 Price/Morris      Metro 6R4   76:26
 2 Brodie/Whyatt     Metro 6R4   76:39
 3 Pye/Thirling      Sierra Cos  79:22
 4 Robson/Tindall    Escort Cos  79:52
 5 Turnbull/Harland  Escort Cos  79:58
 6 Dale/Brook        Escort Cos  82:04
 7 Rooke/Edwards     Escort Cos  83:35
 8 Robathan/Davies   Escort RS   83:52
 9 Fox/Austin        Escort Cos  84:16
10 Griffiths/Dawson  Subaru Leg  84:19

20.02.96 - F1
World Champion Michael Schumacher was forced to drive last year's Ferrari in a test session at Estoril. Ferrari technicians said nothing about the new car's absence, although the pit lane talk was that it might arrive later in the week. Britain's Martin Brundle posted the fastest time of 1 min 21.17 secs, just in front of Jordan Peugeot teammate Rubens Barrichello of Brazil. The Williams-Renaults of Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve were third and fourth fastest.

21.02.96 - F1
Mika Hakkinen dispelled any doubts over his recovery from his near fatal crash last year when he broke the Estoril lap practice record on Wednesday. Three months after fracturing his skull in the Australian GP, Hakkinen clocked 1 minute 20.87 seconds in his McLaren to beat the previous record of 1:21.10 set by Damon Hill only 24 hours earlier. Hill, in his Williams, finished second fastest on Wednesday along with Rubens Barrichello in a time of 1:20.95. Hill's new teammate Jacques Villeneuve was fourth fastest in 1:21.11.

22.02.96 - F1
Mika Hakkinen, who fractured his skull during practice for last year's Australian Grand Prix, set the fastest time in testing at Estoril on Thursday. The McLaren driver recorded a best lap of 1:19.65 to edge out the Benetton of Frenchman Jean Alesi (1:20.26) and the Tyrrell of Finn Mika Salo (1:20.45). Jacques Villeneuve was fourth quickest in his Williams with a best lap of 1:20.54, whilst Austrian Gerhard Berger was fifth fastest in 1:20.75. Michael Schumacher, whose pre-season build-up has been hampered by gearbox problems, was sixth fastest on 1:21.08.

Officials from the Le Castellet track, due to host the French Grand Prix from 1997, say they will probably not be able to stage the event next year. Le Castellet was chosen earlier this month as the venue for the race for five years from next year. But officials from the track said they have been informed by the Formula One Constructors' Association that contracts had already been signed between FOCA and Magny-Cours. "Bernie Ecclestone has informed us that an agreement has already been made with Magny-Cours," they said in a statement.

23.02.96 - F1
Michael Schumacher finally got to test his new Ferrari F310 at Estoril - only to grind to a halt with electrical problems after just two bends. The world champion went out again in the car later in the day and appeared to have no immediate problems. With just over two weeks to go before the start of the 1996 season, recurring technical problems with the new Ferrari have been disappointing for the German. Williams-Renault's Jacques Villeneuve clocked the fastest time in 1 min 19.85 secs. Second fastets was was Austria's Gerhard Berger in his Benetton-Renault.

F1:- Michael Schumacher finally got to grips with his new Ferrari F310 car as he posted the fastest time of the session. The world champion got in 63 laps and his time of 1 minute 21.61 seconds on the 2.7-mile Portuguese circuit was the quickest of the day. On the F310's inaugural run on Friday, Schumacher ground to a halt with electrical problems after taking only two bends in the morning. Scotland's David Coulthard clocked a fastest time of 1:22.20 in 58 laps in McLaren's new MP4/11.

Final leaderboard after 17 stages:mins secs
 1 Mellors/Goff       Escort Cos  64:17
 2 Hill/Boyles        Mitsubishi  64:35
 3 Davies/Hardie      MG Metro    66:31
 4 Duckworth/B'field  Ford Sierra 66:36
 5 Easson/Kitson      Escort      67:37
 6 Petch/Croft        Subaru Imp  67:42
 7 Hendy/Hilton       Escort Cos  67:43
 8 Wetton/Rabbett     Mitsubishi  68:58
 9 B'tt-Evans/Jones   Escort Cos  69:04
10 Vassallo/Bolsover  Subaru Imp  69:29

27.02.96 - TOURING CARS
Andy Rouse Engineering Limited are to join forces with Nissan Motorsport Europe in this year's British Touring Car Championship. Nissan will provide technical and engineering back-up to the team of two Primera race cars. The cars are currently being prepared at Rouse's Coventry workshops for the team's new driver line-up of Gary Ayles and Owen McAuley. Pre-season testing begins next week when Anthony Reid, Nissan's new signing for the German Championship, brings his experience and knowledge to the team.

29.02.96 - F1
The Total Jordan Peugeot Formula One team is to be sponsored by Benson and Hedges this season. Team owner Eddie Jordan said: "It is a major breakthrough for us to secure a new title sponsor." The distinctive all gold Jordan cars will now carry the Benson and Hedges livery. Martin Brundle and Rubens Barrichello have given their cars a final shakedown at Silverstone before the team departs on Friday for the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne, on March 10.