Minardi Target Jordan with New Car

Minardi have Indian Narain Karthikeyan in their sights

Minardi Target Jordan with New Car

Formula One's smallest, poorest and least successful team hope their first all-new car in three years will enable them to beat Karthikeyan's Jordan, their nearest rivals, on a regular basis from next week's San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.

That would be quite something for a team who have scored just three points in the last five years and whose annual budget is less than Ferrari's World Champion Michael Schumacher earns in a season.

"It's the first totally ground-up new (Minardi) for three years," said team owner Paul Stoddart of his new baby, the Cosworth-engined PS05.

"I don't want to make a fool of myself by saying we're going to beat Jordan," added the Australian entrepreneur.

"But, by all accounts and certainly the data I've seen, unless they've got something up their sleeve we should be in a good position after Imola."

After a shakedown on Friday, the team plan to take two new cars to Imola with an old PS04B as the spare because a third PS05 will not be ready until the following race in Spain.

Champions Ferrari did the same with their new car at the last race in Bahrain.

Minardi, operating in an entirely different dimension to the champions but with the comfort of having their Faenza factory just down the road from Imola, have gone a step further.

"We are going to hit the ground at Imola with a car that hasn't been tested," said Stoddart. "This is going to be Australia 2001 all over again when we turned up with the new car literally in the box."

Australia 2001 was Stoddart's first race after rescuing Minardi, the fourth oldest team on the Formula One grid with 324 grands prix behind them since their debut 20 years ago, from imminent financial collapse.

Completely Different

"The boys wanted to wait until Barcelona but I said no, we said Imola and we've got to do it at Imola," said Stoddart. "They've been working night and day to get two of them ready for Imola. The T-car (spare) will be there for Spain."

Last year's car was a carry-over from 2003 while that model had a new engine but otherwise shared much of the basic componentry with the 2002 version.

"It's going to look more Toyota, Renault, Ferrari-ish in that it's very curved," said Stoddart of the new car. "It's completely and utterly different to the one we've got now."

The big plus for the team is that they will get their hands on the same Cosworth engine that Red Bull, formerly Jaguar, have used to such good effect this season.

That does not mean that Minardi, with Dutch rookie Christijan Albers and Austrian Patrick Friesacher, expect to emulate Red Bull's Briton David Coulthard who has scored points at every race so far.

"You've got to remember that these people have spent months and months testing, wind tunnel, and we don't have their resources," said Stoddart.

"We certainly know the aero package is far better than the one we've got, but whether it will be an improvement that goes beyond Jordan...we've made it very clear that Jordan's our ambition.

"If we're ahead of Jordan then as far I'm concerned the team has done its job."

Toyota-powered Jordan, lucky winners of the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix, have fallen far from the heady heights when they and Germany's Heinz-Harald Frentzen finished third in the championship in 1999.

Bought by Russian-born Canadian businessman Alex Shnaider in January, they are in a transition phase before being renamed Midland next season.

Lucky Race

Karthikeyan, India's first Formula One driver, has performed creditably in his first three races alongside fellow rookie Tiago Monteiro of Portugal.

The Jordans beat both Minardi drivers in Australia and Malaysia but Karthikeyan retired in Bahrain with an electrical problem. Neither team has scored a point yet.

"One lucky race will decide ninth and 10th in the championship," said Stoddart.

"From my point of view...it's all going to come down to whether we've been consistently outperforming Jordan. The points will come down to luck but if we have been consistently the best I'll be happy."

There is also a financial consideration, although not a major one.

"If we've been consistently outperforming a team that's got one-and-a-half times our budget and that was perceived to be in a position to beat us with a very respectable engine...it will make it a lot easier for us to get sponsorship," said Stoddart.

"The biggest thing for us is not necessarily financial, it's all about motivation. These guys give 110 percent all the time and it's a pretty tough call to be last."

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