Super Aguri target Grand Prix win by 2008
|By Alan Baldwin||Tuesday, December 5th 2006, 09:58 GMT|
The Super Aguri team believe they can be potential race winners by the 2008 season.
"We want to show the world that we are not losers," managing director Daniele Audetto told Reuters.
"Now that we have the base of the team, mechanics and engineers, we really want to prove that we can fight for a better position.
"I think if we are as good as we proved to be with the old car (this year), maybe in 2008 we can be potential winners of one Grand Prix," he said.
This time last year, Super Aguri did not know whether they had a place in Formula One.
They had no car and little more than a skeleton staff and the governing body had left them off a list of teams accepted for the 2006 season because they had failed to pay a $48-million bond in time.
Now, with Britain's Anthony Davidson partnering Japan's Takuma Sato, they are dreaming of moving up the grid next year and maybe even winning a race in 2008 when new rules take effect.
Even if they failed to score a point and finished last of the 11 teams this year, Super Aguri cannot be accused of lacking ambition.
Just competing this year has been something of an achievement.
When they started the season, it was with a revamped, four-year-old Arrows chassis bought in a hurry from departing Minardi owner Paul Stoddart with the team based in the old Arrows factory in central England.
Founded by former Grand Prix racer Aguri Suzuki, they lined up for their first race in Bahrain with Sato nearly six seconds off the pace.
By the final round in Brazil, he was around 2.5 seconds off Brazilian Felipe Massa's pole position for Ferrari and finished the race 10th with the seventh fastest lap.
Sato's performance did not go unnoticed, even on a day dominated by Michael Schumacher's farewell and Fernando Alonso's second title with Renault, and next season could see another step up.
Super Aguri tested an interim car last week that looked very similar to this year's Honda RA106, a machine that took Briton Jenson Button to victory in Hungary in August.
In 2008, teams will be allowed to sell complete cars to each other but until then they must design and build their own - which means that rivals will be looking very closely to make sure Aguri do not turn up in Australia next March with a re-painted Honda.
Audetto said everything would be in order.
"The car that we tested in Barcelona is just an interim car that will gather all the information regarding the new tyres which we will bring to the new SA07, which we will probably present at the beginning of February," he said.
"It will be a Super Aguri 100 percent."
The main aim for 2007 will be to finish among the top 10 teams, although fellow tail-enders Toro Rosso and Spyker have switched to Ferrari engines.
"It's true that the Honda support is very strong and with Sato and Davidson I think we have a very good couple of drivers," said Audetto. "But to go in the middle of the grid (next year) is a big, big jump.
"I think we can achieve that in 2008, when the regulations really change...I think that 2008 will be the year where Super Aguri will really show all the potential.
"The new rules will allow even the small teams to have the same technical support, chassis and aero as the top teams - we can share the same car - and then what will count is the drivers, the racing team, the strategy," he added.
"Potentially a small team with a very good car...with good drivers and strategy and a little luck could eventually win a Grand Prix in 2008."
Super Aguri started out as an all-Japanese effort to ensure that Sato remained in Formula One after Honda faced a backlash at home for dropping him.
The line-up of Sato and rookie Yuji Ide vanished when the latter was stripped of his superlicence and France's Franck Montagny was drafted in.
Japan's Sakon Yamamoto took over towards the end of the season but Davidson, a long-standing Honda test driver, offers far more experience as well as a broader appeal.
"Super Aguri wants also to be more international in the future to attract more international sponsors," said Audetto.
"Sato gave Aguri Suzuki the opportunity to have the support from Honda to create a team and to allow Sato to remain in Formula One. But Super Aguri must be competitive and successful."
Next season will tell just how competitive.