DECEMBER 23, 1996

Minardi confirms Katayama

UKYO KATAYAMA is to drive for Minardi in 1997.

UKYO KATAYAMA is to drive for Minardi in 1997. The 33-year-old Japanese driver will be taking considerable sponsorship to the little Italian team from Japan Tobacco's Mild Seven brand.

It will be Katayama's sixth season in F1 with backing from JT. He broke into F1 in 1992 thanks to sponsorship from Cabin - another Japan Tobacco brand - and looked promising. He then switched the Cabin money across to Tyrrell in 1993. A change of policy at JT saw this become Mild Seven money in 1994-95-96 but Katayama has still failed to produce any spectacular results and has had a tendency to have accidents.

The deal has been put together by Minardi's new boss Flavio Briatore, who is expected to use the Italian team as a Benetton "Junior Team" in 1997.

The team has yet to nominate its other driver although Tarso Marques is believed to be the favorite for the drive. having reportedly found the money necessary in Brazil. His rival for the drive, Giancarlo Fisichella, may get a drive with Jordan.

The Minardi team will use Hart V8 engines and Bridgestone tires. The new Minardi-Hart M197 is expected to be unveiled in mid-January.