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Sauber unveil the C23 in Salzburg 13 Jan 2004

Sauber C23

Sauber unveiled their challenger for the 2004 FIA Formula One World Championship on Monday when the wraps came off the new C23 at Salzburg Airport in Austria. The car, which will be driven by Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa, will use the same spec engine and gearbox as this year's Ferrari.

Sauber have been using Petronas-badged Ferrari engines since 1997, but traditionally they have received the Italian team's previous season specification. For 2004, however, the C23 will benefit from the world champions' latest V10, as well as their seven-speed gearbox.

This, combined with the development benefits the team hope they can reap from their recently completed state-of-the-art wind tunnel, means that boss Peter Sauber is confident of the C23's potential. "Our goal for 2004 is to clearly increase our performance," he said ahead of Monday's launch. "How well we'll be able to do this primarily depends on how quickly we'll be able to translate the results of our wind tunnel work to the race track."

Technical Director Willy Rampf revealed that the Swiss team chose a pragmatic approach to the C23's design, with the aim of developing a car with a sound basis and plenty of potential for continued development. "Owing to the fact that we will not be able to start working in our new wind tunnel until after the roll-out of the C23, this solution made sense to us more than any other," he commented.

Sauber have abandoned their familiar twin-keel design for the C23 in a bid to make the new car stiffer and lighter. However, Rampf admitted that it had failed one of the FIA's mandatory crash tests, which it will have to retake later this month.

One man at Sauber who will have plenty of experience of the C23's Ferrari engine-gearbox package is Felipe Massa. The Brazilian, who made his competitive Formula One debut with Sauber in 2002, spent all of last season testing for Ferrari, a role he is also continuing into 2004. "I've learnt a lot during my year as a test driver and am ready, now, to apply this knowledge to the race track," he said.

The C23 will get its first track outing on Wednesday when the team begin a three-day test session at Valencia in Spain.

See also: Sauber C23 launch - in pictures