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Ligier cancels Portuguese test

LIGIER'S planned test at Estoril last week - scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - was called off at the last-minute.

The man who had been tipped to test - American Robby Gordon - turned up testing at Indianapolis on Monday and crashed one of the Walker Racing Reynard-Ford 95Is heavily, inverting the car in Turn Two and knocking himself out. He was taken to Methodists Hospital but suffered nothing worse than concussion. At the time of the crash he had been lapping in the 220mph bracket, doing development work for Goodyear.

Gordon's Indycar situation is currently complicated as Walker Racing announced last week that it is to join the Indy Racing League, because of sponsor obligations for the team to race at Indianapolis. Several teams are planning to compete in both the CART events and the five IRL races - but will lose their political voice within CART as a result. Walker is expected to do both championships, but if not, Gordon would be available for F1. Any decision, however, is likely to rest with the team's sponsor Valvoline.

Another name being lined with Ligier at the moment is Brazilian Gil de Ferran, who raced this year for Jim Hall's Pennzoil-sponsored team, winning the Laguna Seca race in his Reynard-Mercedes 95I. De Ferran would certainly like to race in F1 - he only moved to Indycars when he was unable to find a place in Grand Prix racing - but it remains to be seen whether he can raise the money necessary to buy a Ligier drive. Brazilian interest in F1 is on the wane at the moment - following the death of Ayrton Senna and Rubens Barrichello's disappointing showings with Jordan - and a lot of interest is now centered on Indycars where Emerson and Christian Fittipaldi, Raul Boesel and de Ferran have all been doing well. Boesel has just landed a major sponsorship deal with the Brahma beer company from Brazil and will be racing for Team Green, which won the 1995 title with Jacques Villeneuve.

Other drivers who have been considered as possible Ligier drivers are Formula 3000 Champions Vincenzo Sospiri, Johnny Herbert, Jos Verstappen and Frenchmen Emmanuel Collard, Jean-Christophe Boullion and Olivier Panis.

At the same time, Brazilian rich kid Pedro Diniz is trying to buy his way into the team with a rumored $10 million in sponsorship.

Ligier is expected to run a car in the F1 pursuit races at the Bologna Motor Show on the weekend of December 9/10 (probably with Sospiri driving), and is due to appear in testing at Barcelona in the week that follows.

The team may also be seen testing at its home track at Magny-Cours, although the weather in central France at the moment is going to be very cold.

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