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BAR aiming for top three as 006 launches 01 Feb 2004

(L to R): Jenson Button (GBR) BAR, David Richards (GBR) BAR Team Principal, Takuma Sato (JPN) BAR and Anthony Davidson (GBR) BAR Test Driver with the new BAR Honda 006. BAR Honda 006 Car Launch, Barcelona, Spain, 1 February 2004.

The BAR team believe they can provide a credible challenge to the top three teams with their all-new 006 car, launched today (Sunday) at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya. Team Principal David Richards predicted the new machine would see the Honda-powered squad fighting for regular podium places in 2004.

Last year's 005 enabled the team to move up from eighth to fifth place in the constructors' championship, and according to BAR, the 006 is a significant evolution of that machine, having been designed with a more challenging and innovative approach.

The new chassis is stiffer and has a lower centre of gravity. It also features a smaller fuel capacity to reflect the revised qualifying rules and raised pit lane speeds. The biggest single development is the new gearbox. It features a full carbon-composite maincase, together with narrow, lightweight gear ratios which afford a very substantial weight reduction at the rear of the car. There are further weight-saving features throughout, with greater use of MMC (metal matrix composite), innovative upright design, simplified internal suspension components, and a refined and better integrated hydraulics system.

The new engine and chassis allow a slightly shorter wheelbase, and the aerodynamic package has been optimised. BAR has used the results of track testing last year to identify a new strategy for aerodynamic development, and the new car has been developed in the wind tunnel using these new techniques. Although the change of aerodynamic regulations has slowed down the pace of improvement, the new car shows clear performance advantages in the tunnel over its predecessor.

Honda has produced a new engine to meet the challenge of the single-engine rule introduced for the first time this season. Although similar in concept to the 2003 unit, it too is a completely revised design, with much smaller dimensions, reduced weight and a lower centre of gravity.

For 2004, BAR has also forged a new partnership with French tyre supplier Michelin, after switching from Bridgestone. The team has conducted an extensive programme of tyre development during winter testing in readiness for their debut season together, using nearly 1,000 tyres during 10,000 kilometres of testing.

Getting their first taste of the 006 on Sunday were new team mates Jenson Button and Takuma Sato - one of the youngest driver pairings on the 2004 grid. Despite having only recently turned 24 years of age, Button is entering his fifth season in Formula One in the role of BAR's team leader. Following Sato's excellent, if somewhat impromptu, race debut for the team in Japan at the end of last year, he will be starting his second full season of racing in Formula One.

Of the 006 Button commented: "The car is a major step forward and I feel very confident that the team isn't overstating its expectations for this year when we say we can fight with the top three teams. I think Taku and I will work very well together and hopefully we can look forward to the same kind of results we achieved in Japan. I think this year will definitely bring us podium finishes and, who knows, perhaps my first win as well."

BAR will get their first chance to gauge the 006 against its competition this week when they will be one of several teams testing at Barcelona.

See also: The BAR 006 - in pictures