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Dennis rallies the troops at McLaren

MCLAREN'S Ron Dennis is digging in for a winter of hard work and is promising that 1996 will see McLaren returning to the winning circle. The team, which dominated the 1980s - winning 74 races and 13 World Championships between 1984 and 1992 - has not scored a win since the end of 1993 nor a Championship victory since 1991.

This has been partly caused by the fact that the team has changed engines three times, going from Honda to Ford in 1993, Ford to Peugeot in 1994 and Peugeot to Mercedes in 1995. The 1996 season, however, will be the team's second with Mercedes-Benz, which should improve the performance.

Speaking at a Mercedes function at Stuttgart in Germany, Dennis told Mercedes-Benz management to maintain its confidence in the team.

"I haven't forgotten how to win," he told them. "We will be there."

This is fighting talk from the usually-guarded Dennis, and this and other recent forceful comments suggest that Ron knows that the 1996 season will be a make or break year for the team.

Dennis is very persuasive, and this has clearly worked with German fashion house Hugo Boss, which has reconsidered its decision to quit the team and is planning to continue after all. Courtaulds, however, is not expected to change its mind.

Although the team's number one driver Mika Hakkinen remains in hospital in Adelaide, Australia, F1 doctor Professor Sid Watkins says that there is "a very good chance" that Mika will make a full comeback. Watkins said he expects to see Hakkinen racing in Melbourne next March.

The McLaren design team at Woking is currently working hard on the MP4/11 design, although skeptics point out that it is being produced by the same crew who built the less-than-effective MP4/10 this year.

Dennis would like nothing more than to silence his critics with a wave of victories.

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