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Ligier gets Gauloises

THE Ligier F1 team has announced that it has secured a further two years of backing from the French Societe d'Exploitation Industrielle des Tabacs et Allumettes (SEITA).

The SEITA owns the Gitanes cigarette brand which has been used to support Ligier since the team entered F1 in 1976, but for 1996 and 1997 Ligier will carry the colors of Gitanes's sister cigarette brand Gauloises Blondes. The team did not give any indication as to how much the budget will be from the SEITA but it is certain to be considerably reduced as a result of important changes to both Ligier and the SEITA in the last couple of years.

Ligier is no longer French-owned. No-one seems to be quite sure exactly who owns what, but the team appears to be split between Flavio Briatore and Tom Walkinshaw. There may also be some involvement from the Benetton Family, Guy Ligier and perhaps even Bernie Ecclestone. The team continues to try hard to appear to be French, hiring former Ligier driver Jacques Laffite as a PR man and inviting Ligier to several GPs. This campaign will continue in the weeks ahead when Ligier announces that it has appointed Andre de Cortanze its technical director.

Things have changed for the SEITA as well as it was privatized in February and is now no longer under the direct control of the French government.

Despite all these changes, Briatore has managed to convince the SEITA director Jean-Dominique Comolli that Ligier is the team to support.

The switch to Gauloises Blondes backing is no surprise as this was the badging which appeared on Gerard Larrousse's cars briefly in 1994 when the SEITA backed him.

Ligier has also announced that it has extended its agreement with Mugen Honda for another two years. The new deal does not, however, appear to be exclusive, as the Dome team is expected to use Mugen Honda V10s for testing in 1996 and for racing in 1997.

The Ligier announcement was curious in that it did not mention Tom Walkinshaw, but underlined that Briatore - who has been involved little with Ligier this year - is still President of Ligier Sports, despite Walkinshaw's desire to control the team.

It should be noted, also, that the French lottery Loto has announced that it will not be continuing with Ligier.

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