MARCH 30, 1998
Problems for Prost
PROST GRAND PRIX is not having an easy time at the moment. The operation has been plagued by gearbox problems so far this season to such an extent that the team is believed to have started work on the design for a completely new unit to be introduced later in the season. The existing gearbox has been modified and strengthened but the unit while being more reliable is also a lot heavier and, with the weight in overhang at the back of the chassis the car's weight distribution has been disrupted.
The team's problems were intensified in Brazil because of Olivier Panis's heavy accident during the warm-up on Sunday morning. The impact destroyed the monocoque of the car and that means that it will be three weeks before the team can have a much-needed fifth chassis. The race team had four chassis before the crash and the aim was for a new monocoque, which will be finished this week, to become a car dedicated to testing. This would help the team catch up some of the ground which has been lost because of the gearbox troubles. With one of the racing team's chassis destroyed the new car will be the replacement and the test car will be pushed back at least three weeks.
The team will complete its move to the new factory near Versailles this week but there has been further disruption with a number of personnel changes. George Ryton, the head of research and development (and the man responsible for the troublesome gearbox) has left the team. In addition production boss Didier Perrin has become team manager. His place has been taken by Michel Imbert, recruited by Prost from the Rossignol ski company. There is also a new marketing director following the departure of Gerard Seizille after just a few months. He has been replaced by Yves Lambert.
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