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Super Aguri ready to step up

Friday July 28 2006


Super Aguri aim to prove they are serious about Formula One this weekend at Hockenheim, when they show off a new car and a new driver.

The all-Japanese team have battled on with a four-year-old car so far in their rookie year but have never troubled the points scorers, and only occasionally started further forward than the back row.

That was to be expected given the rush with which Aguri Suzuki put his team together but the Honda-backed team have taken their time building a new car and hope to reap the rewards.

Chief technical officer Mark Preston said: "The objective has to be racing properly with the Midlands and gaining 10th in the championship."

Honda have weighed in with their state-of-the-art gearbox while a new design at the rear is expected to generate 10% more downforce - a massive step given the usually tiny margins in Formula One.

However, with only a few dozen laps over two days testing, the new car's debut could be problematic.

But as well as a new car, Super Aguri also have a new race driver on show after Sakon Yamamoto stepped up to replace Franck Montagny.

The 24-year-old had three races as test driver to acclimatise and he is ready for the challenge of becoming the 17th Japanese driver to start in Formula One.

"Hockenheim will be my first race with the team and I am, of course, very excited and appreciate everyone's hard work," said Yamamoto, who would be only the sixth Japanese driver to score points.

"I am very proud to be racing with the team and will try my best to improve, step-by-step, for everyone."

Whether Yamamoto has any chance of points this season remains unclear, with the potential of Super Aguri's new car a mystery.

Even Preston admits he cannot predict how much of a step forward has been made, saying: "Simulations can tell you anything from half a second to five seconds but I am pretty sure it won't be five.

"Over the first eight races we have been slowly, slowly increasing our performance. I think the same thing will happen tomorrow but everyone else is moving forward as well."

Preston's task in overseeing the first new entry to Formula One since 2002 has been complicated by his efforts to introduce a new car mid-season.

With that goal finally achieved, he believes a sense of normality can descend on Super Aguri for the first time in their short existence.

"We've been thinking about this from the very start and working on it full tilt since Bahrain in March," he added.

"We are finally ahead of the game. We had been struggling to catch up but finally we are here.

"I hope we will be able to do more than we did in the first races and bring updates in more regularly."
 
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