JANUARY 18, 1999

Benetton's fancy braking system

AT the launch of the new Benetton-Playlife B199 at Enstone last weekend the team revealed a radically new front brake system which it has dubbed "Front Torque Transfer". This involves linking the two front wheels with drive shafts which will transfer energy between the wheels and should mean that the car will be much more stable under braking. The team says that Nick├ŐWirth's B199 also features major advances in the fields of transmission, aerodynamics and electronics.

Wirth says that the car is revolutionary and should provide a performance boost, so long as it proves to be reliable. The team at Enstone worked flat-out throughout the Christmas period in order to get the new car ready to test, the production processes having been delayed deliberately so that elements of the new car could be tested in the team's brand new windtunnel, which was opened only six weeks ago. The B199 is due to begin testing at Silverstone this week and it will then be sent to Jerez for a test at the start of next week.

The Benetton team hopes that technological advances will put it back into contention for race wins after three very poor seasons. Last year the team finished fifth in the Constructors' World Championship.

The team's new chief executive Rocco Benetton said the team wants to win the World Championship but admitted that he knows that will be difficult. "We want to be back on top," he said, "but we know we must be humble and realistic as well and that could mean that we have to settle for somewhere in the top three."

The team is obviously optimistic that it will be competitive this year but with Mecachrome engines it is going to be difficult for Benetton to keep up with the Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz cars as the French engines have not received much development in recent months.

The Benetton driver line-up remains the same with Giancarlo Fisichella being partnered by Alexander Wurz, while Minardi test driver Laurent Redon joins the team. The team is to retain most of its 1998 sponsors although Federal Express has decided not to continue.