FEBRUARY 5, 1996
Ligier's JS43 runs
THE Ligier Formula 1 team launched its new JS43 chassis at Monte Carlo last Monday and ran for the first time a couple of days later at Paul Ricard.
The team - which is owned by Tom Walkinshaw and Flavio Briatore, but run by Walkinshaw - has backing from the French SEITA cigarette company's Gauloises Blondes brand and Italian dairy company Parmalat. There is only a small amount of support from Elf - a traditional Ligier sponsor - plus a variety of small backers including shoe company Kickers (once owned by Briatore), Brazilian supermarket chain Arisco and South American ice cream company Kibon (formerly with Jordan). Parmalat and the Latin American money comes thanks to Pedro Diniz.
As expected, Olivier Panis and Pedro Diniz were named Ligier drivers, with Sweden's Kenny Brack and Briton Kelvin Burt nominated as testers. Walkinshaw says there will be a lot of development work to be done despite the fact there is not much money. Walkinshaw does not appear to be very keen on either Panis or Diniz and has been forced to accept them because of sponsorship. Tom spent much of the winter trying to sign up Brazilian Gil de Ferran - currently racing Indycars with JimÊHall - and negotiations nearly resulted in Ligier attempting to buy the American team.
The inclusion of Burt and Brack brings two talented youngsters into the realms of F1. Burt drives for Walkinshaw's Volvo touring car team in Britain while Brack's involvement will do no harm at all for Walkinshaw's connections in Scandinavia - the TWR empire currently doing engineering consultancy work for both Volvo and Saab. Brack will race this year in FormulaÊ3000 with the Super Nova team and has an option with Ligier for 1997 and 1998.
Walkinshaw admits that this year will be a difficult one for Ligier and, in what amounted to a warning to the French motor racing industry, said that if the team does not find more support it is possible that he will have to close it down. Tom denies that he wants to relocate the entire team at his TWR headquarters at Leafield in England.