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OCTOBER 20, 2001

Benetton's Gascoyne aiming for wins in 2002

BENETTON technical director Mike Gascoyne says that the newly branded Renault F1 team will be aiming for race victories in 2002 - and believes that the team was genuinely the fourth fastest behind the 'Big Three' at the final round of this year's Championship at Suzuka.

"At the start of this season I made a point of telling the press to judge us by where we were at the end of the season rather than at the start,' said Gascoyne. 'We knew that the first part of the year would be a struggle. It would have been all-too-easy to opt for another season with the old Supertec V10 and we might well have ended up with fifth place in the Constructors' Championship.

"We had to accept compromises early in the season to guarantee we'd make progress at the end. Sure, as racers it was very frustrating to turn up to those early season races knowing we were going to qualify 18th or 19th. But we really didn't want to waste time on short-term fixes."

The 2001 driver line-up saw Jenson Button moving into the team as successor to Alexander Wurz alongside Giancarlo Fisichella. The Italian driver proved that there were early signs of promise when he qualified tenth at Monaco, proving that the low center of gravity afforded by the new Renault V10 really offered worthwhile slow corner traction benefits thanks to its low center-of-gravity.

"Giancarlo did an absolutely fantastic job," said Gascoyne. "I simply couldn't praise him highly enough. In particular, that point he gained us for sixth place in Brazil was worth its weight in gold. He carried us when we were down and, when things began to look up, at Spa he never put a wheel wrong on his run to third place."

It was a hugely encouraging result and one which raised expectations for the season's finale in Japan. 'Both Spa and Suzuka were crucially aerodynamic handling tracks and Giancarlo did really well to qualify sixth in Japan,' said Gascoyne.

Next year Gascoyne admits that he is looking forward to working with Jarno Trulli, whom he believes is pretty well on a par with the outgoing Fisichella in terms of pure ability. "I think Jarno may be capable of being quicker in qualifying," he said, "but Fisi may be quicker over a race distance. Either way, they are both potential winners and I can't think what McLaren was doing failing to consider them for next season."