Analysis: BAR Still Chasing Win as they Hit 100

When British American Racing replaced the Tyrrell team and set their sights on Formula One, co-founder Adrian Reynard mapped out the road ahead.

Analysis: BAR Still Chasing Win as they Hit 100

When British American Racing replaced the Tyrrell team and set their sights on Formula One, co-founder Adrian Reynard mapped out the road ahead.

The aim, he said, was to win from day one - just as Reynard's racecar company had done on its debuts in other single-seater series.

As the team's debut in Australia in 1999 approached, team boss Craig Pollock spoke in a similar vein.

"We are obliged to win in the shortest possible time," he said. "There is no use sending a team out telling them we will come fourth or fifth. We have to be aiming to win and to upset the balance of power in Formula One."

Rarely in motor racing has anyone been more badly bitten by their own words or been subjected to more hollow laughter from gleeful rivals.

Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, a home race for engine supplier Honda, will be BAR's 100th start and they are still seeking that elusive first victory despite being a team to reckon with at last.

The team, now known simply as BAR, ended that first season without scoring a point. It took former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve 12 starts just to get to the finish.

"We were overly brash," admitted Pollock before the year was out. "It's been worse than I thought from A to Z. We had a dream and it became more of a nightmare."

Australia's 1980 World Champion Alan Jones, never one to beat about the bush, summed up what many thought during that season: "They've really got up people's noses with all their fanfare and lots of money."

Different Animal

If people felt smug at witnessing the discomfort of a team awash with tobacco money and full of brash promises after replacing one of the great names in the sport, they are not laughing now.

The founders are gone and the BAR that will be racing in Suzuka on Sunday is now a competitive and well-oiled machine capable at last of giving even the dominant Ferraris a run for their money.

Pollock, who still has a small stake in the team, went at the end of 2001 when he was replaced by Briton David Richards. Canadian Villeneuve departed before last year's Japanese Grand Prix after being with the team from the outset.

The 1997 Champion, drafted in by Renault last month for the final three races of the year before moving to Sauber next season, did at least bring the team their first podium - in Spain in 2001.

But his last few years as one of the highest-paid drivers in Formula One were uneasy and acrimonious.

Since his departure, BAR have moved into overdrive. The arrival of technical director Geoff Willis from Williams and closer involvement by Honda are paying dividends at last.

Once derided as Formula One's over-spenders and under-performers, with owners British American Tobacco dishing out a fortune for little reward in the past, BAR have been a revelation this season.

They are second in a Constructors' Championship already won by Ferrari - nine points ahead of Renault with just the Brazilian Grand Prix to come after Suzuka - and have eclipsed Williams and McLaren. Last year they were fifth overall, equalling their best performance to date.

Briton Jenson Button has been a frequent visitor to the podium with four second places and five thirds.

Takuma Sato was third at Indianapolis, equalling the best ever result by a Japanese driver, and can be expected to go well in his home race. Until this year, he had only ever scored points at Suzuka.

Of the 12 podium finishes the team have taken since their debut in 1999, 10 have come this year.

Most Successful

"I wouldn't say I am getting fed up with finishing second or third but I'm pushing very, very hard for that win," said Button, whose future remains uncertain as BAR and Williams fight for his services, after the last race in China.

"We've been close on a few occasions...It has been a good year all round and there's a possibility in the last two races that we can win."

Button also gave BAR their first pole position at the San Marino Grand Prix in April and was on the front row in Canada in June. Sato qualified second at the Nurburgring in May.

"BAR has come a long way in its first 100 races," said Richards, who admitted at the start of the year that he would be happy with third place in the Constructors' Championship.

"It is a tribute to the hard work and determination of every single member of the team that we should celebrate this important landmark [of 100 GPs] when we are at the most successful point in our history.

"This season in particular has been extremely satisfying as we find ourselves fighting for second place in the Constructors' Championship and exceeding even our own ambitious targets.

"We have now established ourselves as one of the leading teams and with 10 podium finishes this year and our first win drawing ever closer, the team has never been more optimistic.

"We look forward to the next 100 races."

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