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Prost aims for 1998 victories

ALAIN PROST launched his 1998 package last week at Barcelona and said that the team's intention was "to win the World Championship as quickly as possible". Prost launched his new Prost-Peugeot AP01 in Spain to avoid France's restrictive anti-tobacco laws and to enable drivers Olivier Panis and Jarno Trulli to begin testing without any delay.

"We are beginning a new era," said Prost "and there is no comparison between what Peugeot achieved with the two Anglo-Saxon teams and what they are doing with us. The situation is completely different."

After four seasons in Grand Prix racing Peugeot is still looking for its first victory but team personnel do not think it is far away with Jean-Pierre Boudy's Peugeot A16 engine being much more easy to use than the previous unit and boasting almost 800 horsepower. The AP01 chassis has been designed by Loic Bigois and his team at Magny-Cours with a brand new gearbox from British designer George Ryton.

The team is certainly not short of money with an impressive package of sponsors including Gauloises, Canal Plus, Bic and Alcatel. Sony's PlayStation company has increased its involvement while the 1997 Prost sponsors have been joined by French oil company Total - which traditionally supports all Peugeot motor sport activities - and by the German photographic company Agfa. Agfa is a subsidiary of the German chemical giant Bayer AG and is one of the market leaders in photographic film and equipment, audio tapes and photocopying devices. It has annual sales around the world of $4.5bn.

Prost is going to have an expensive year with the construction of his new factory at Guyancourt, near Versailles, now nearing completion. The team is due to start moving into the facility in February although Magny-Cours will remain open until the new Prost windtunnel is ready for action at Guyancourt.

Prost took the opportunity of the launch to point out that he believes Damon Hill made a big mistake in not signing for Prost and that he is not sure if Damon has the right motivation to win again.

In the recent days, incidentally, the drivers of the Prost Junior Team - which will run in Formula 3000 - have been confirmed. They will be Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin and Italian Marcelo Battistuzzi. The team will be run by Dominique Delestre's Apomatox operation.

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