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   Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 16:50 GMT
BAR predict top-team challenge
Race drivers Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button flank test drivers Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato
BAR's drivers pose with the new car
BAR believe they will finally become a competitive force in Formula One this season.

Both driver Jacques Villeneuve and technical director Geoff Willis predicted at the launch of the team's new car that they would be in the running for podium places in 2003.

Villeneuve predicted that the revamped team would be battling with Williams and McLaren to be best of the rest behind Ferrari when the season gets underway in March.

The Canadian world champion in 1997 with Williams, believes his team have finally embraced cutting-edge F1 technology following an overhaul of their design department.

BAR last year employed ex-Williams aerodynamicist Willis as their technical director, and this is the first car on which he has led the design.

"At least this one looks like a proper F1 car, so that's good," Villeneuve said at the launch of the new BAR 005.

"I think we should be able to fight against everyone, except Ferrari, if the numbers [data] Geoff has shown us are true."

Willis said: "We want to compete for the top three positions in 2003.

"Our target is to finish every race, regularly being in the points and being on the podium as often as we can."

This is a crucial year for both Villeneuve and his team-mate Jenson Button, who are both regarded to be battling for their F1 futures.

Many observers - including their fellow drivers - believe Button will have a hard time establishing himself in the face of Villeneuve's hard-nosed and aggressive approach.

Button said: "I'm expecting a difficult year but this is only the start of a long term relationship."

Jenson Button climbs out of the new BAR after its first test
Button will do the first tests of the new bar
BAR boss David Richards said: "I honestly think we'll be regular qualifiers in the top 10. If we can achieve that, we'll get podiums and score points on a regular basis."

BAR will start testing at the Circuit de Catalunya from Wednesday to Friday.

Button and test drivers Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson are expected to put the new Honda-powered machine through its paces.

See also:

14 Jan 03 | Formula One
13 Jan 03 | Formula One
10 Jan 03 | Formula One
10 Jan 03 | Formula One
09 Jan 03 | Formula One
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