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Ligier to announce new Gitanes deal

SEITA, which owns the Gitanes Blondes cigarette brand, is to announce its plans for 1996 in Paris, on Wednesday. The company - which has supported Ligier since 1976 - is expected to complete its 20th season with Ligier, although the involvement is likely to be greatly reduced in relation to previous seasons.

The deal has been held up in recent weeks because of fears of a share investigation involving another Ligier sponsor, Kickers.

Gitanes's F1 boss Henri Libert is expected to retire in the course of 1996 and there are suggestions that his place will be taken by former F1 racer Philippe Alliot, who is currently attending all the Grands Prix working for Eurosport France, but also as an observer for SEITA boss Jean-Dominique Comolli.

The Ligier team still needs more money for next year but the Gitanes decision will enable team principal - but not apparently owner - Tom Walkinshaw to continue his restructuring plans. All the indications are that Tom is now working towards big changes in 1997 and that 1996 will be an interim year with a 1996 design which will be very close to that of Benetton again. Once the team's ownership is sorted out and Tom's engineers, who are currently at Benetton, become available the team will make fundamental changes.

For next year, however, changes are expected to be largely cosmetic with a French designer expected to be shipped in for a year. One possibility is Gerard Ducarouge, who was ditched by the team last year while Sauber's Andre de Cortanze is also thought to be a strong contender.

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