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Force India on track for March debut 30 Jan 2009

James Key (GBR) and Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India F1 on the grid. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 27 April 2008 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) Force India F1 test driver.
Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, 18 November 2008 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Force India F1. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 17 November 2008. Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 2 November 2008

Although their rivals are already tweaking their new cars after testing last week, Force India are yet to unveil their 2009 challenger. But on Friday the team revealed that they are on target to debut the VJM02 during testing in early March, ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix later in the month.

As well as adjusting to 2009’s extensive regulation changes, Force India have also switched from an engine supply deal with Ferrari to a new technical partnership with McLaren. And with the engine and gearbox contract only agreed in November, the team have been working flat out ever since to accommodate the late change of plan.

“The deal took quite a while to do and therefore the announcement and the opportunity to start work was late, especially considering the package included such fundamental items such as the gearbox,” technical director James Key told the team’s official website. “It’s obviously very tight, because of what we’ve had to do. But the plan is to hit the last two official team tests before the season.”

Although modifying the car's design to incorporate a new gearbox and engine has been a complicated process, Key has clearly relished the challenge and has been pleased with how smooth the transition has been.

“We had to determine how compatible the existing designs were,” he added. “In some areas it was fairly straightforward. Some areas of the car matched very well with the new packaging requirements we had, while in other areas it was significantly different.

“I think it’s just getting everything together. McLaren have been absolutely excellent, they understand that we’ve had a lot of work to do in a short time. They’ve been extremely supportive, very helpful.”

And if Force India's progress continues at the same rate throughout February, the VJM02 is expected to hit the track for the first time on March 1 at a multi-team test at the Spanish circuit of Jerez.