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Sauber wins race to build first 1996 car

ALTHOUGH the Jordan-Peugeot 196 briefly ran for the first time in a shakedown test at Silverstone eight days ago, it was the Swiss Sauber team which won the race to be the first F1 team to officially unveil its 1996 challenger.

The Sauber-Ford C15 began testing on Tuesday at the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France and was presented to the press on Wednesday - with drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Johnny Herbert. The team will be backed once again by the Red Bull energy drink company, and by Indonesian oil company, Petronas. There is also backing this year from Ford for the development of the new V10 engine.

The Jordan was unveiled the following day at Estoril in Portugal (see below).

Within the next few days Benetton will also reveal its Benetton-Renault B196, which will be raced this year by Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. This is expected to run in England - at either Silverstone or Donington - and may then appear at the forthcoming Barcelona test. It will not be officially launched until the first week of February when Benetton is planning a large function in Taormina, Sicily - the village from where Jean Alesi's family originated before moving to France.

Ligier will be launching sooner than Benetton, but it is unlikely that the car which will be unveiled will be able to run until a week or two after the presentation - as the production processes at Ligier have been badly affected by the recent firings of production staff at Magny-Cours.

The team has chosen Monte Carlo to launch the new Ligier-Mugen Honda JS43. This is planned to coincide with the end of the Monte Carlo Rally and - because Monaco does not come under French law regarding cigarette advertising - allows the team to reveal the car complete with its Gauloises Blondes advertising. The launch will take place at the Monaco Yacht Club on January 29.

Tyrrell tested its interim 023B at Silverstone last week. This car - a 023 fitted with the new V10 Yamaha engine and the new Tyrrell pneumatically-controlled longitudinal gearbox - will have a very short life span. Mika Salo completed 25 laps at a rainy Silverstone in preparation for an engine test at Barcelona this week.

The new Tyrrell-Yamaha 024 has just passed its crash test at the Cranfield Institute in England and is due to run for the first time early in February. The team is planning to launch the new car in England on January 30.

The remainder of the F1 teams are expected to run their new cars for the first time in the Estoril testing which begins on February 10 - notably the new Williams (scheduled to arrive on February 16), the Ferrari 410T and the McLaren-Mercedes MP4/11.

All the top teams are expected to remain in Portugal until it is time for the cars to be packed up and sent off to Australia, where the new season begins in Melbourne on March 10.

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