Motor Racing: The man who will be king: Derick Allsop continues his pit-lane look at the Camel Benetton-Ford team as they lean on their systems to deal with the changing weather during the British Grand Prix

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The Independent Online
THE British Grand Prix holds regular terrors: erratic weather, traffic jams and, for the teams based in this country, the clamour for tickets. This year the crowds at Silverstone are down, so getting in and out of the circuit is not such an ordeal, but rain clouds have closed in and the boys at Camel Benetton-Ford are still hounded by family and friends for complimentaries.

Wayne Bennett is an electronics technician on the race team. He says: 'We get two tickets for Friday and Saturday or one for race day. My wife is coming to the race. You get hassled for tickets but you can swing a few deals. I managed to sort it out for my parents to come as well, but obviously I owe a few favours now.

'My specific job is on the active suspension, programming the car, setting the active control, analysing the data. I would be sorry to see a lot of the technology go. I could be out of a job] I don't think we'll ever see the back of it, though, because there's still data logging to be done.'

The changing conditions, from a wet Friday to a dry Saturday, complicate the schedule for Bennett and his colleagues. Rory Byrne, in charge of Riccardo Patrese's car, says: 'It has made it hard on the technical side because you don't get so much time running in the dry or in the wet.

'Fortunately, with the active suspension we have quite a wide range of adjustments so we can dial the car in a lot easier than we could with the passive system. We have some set-

ups worked out should the race start wet and turn dry, and vice versa, so we are reasonably well prepared.'

Byrne, who also has responsibilities for research and development, was put on Patrese's car to help the Italian through his early season problems. He says: 'You have to be concerned not only with the engineering but the need to relate to the driver. You must keep a cool head and analyse a situation rather than start allowing emotions to take over.

'There's no magic to the engineering exercise. The laws of physics still prevail and you've just got to work through that methodically. As far as the drivers are concerned, I believe in being quite open and straight with them. If we have a problem there's no point in sweeping it under the carpet. Admit it and work together to try to solve it.'

Michael Schumacher has to take over Patrese's car in the final qualifying session after going off in his and demonstrates his talent to claim a convincing third place on the grid, ahead of Ayrton Senna's McLaren, which is now powered by the same Ford engine.

Byrne says: 'Michael is very cool and methodical, exceptionally so for a driver of 24. He's an exceptional driver in every aspect. His speed, his fitness and his stamina are remarkable. He won a cycle race round the circuit here at a canter, against people who cycle on a regular basis.

'I look at him and think there's someone a bit special. It's very difficult to make comparisons, but Ayrton drove for us in his first year, 1984, and Michael has all the same attributes. Michael's going to be world champion one day, I've got no doubt about it.'

Byrne has been with the team since the end of 1977, breaking off for a brief spell with Reynard's ill-fated Formula One project. He says: 'When we first came into grand prix racing in 1981, as Toleman, we couldn't cope. We had new engines, new tyres, new chassis - we just couldn't handle the combination of all these new things.'

'It took us two or three years to find our feet and start to progress. The cars are so complex and the engineering issues that need to be researched so wide-ranging that you cannot possibly succeed as a small team. The teams that start to show promise tend to grow into big teams, which this one has.'

Byrne shares the widespread anxieties over Formula One's regulations and the show it is presenting. He says: 'It is important that the regulations are clearly defined in engineering terms to avoid confusion.

'What Formula One has to do is improve the spectacle. We have to have better racing. You could have pit stops for refuelling. So long as the refuelling is done by gravity and pit lane personnel are controlled, I think that the risks, although still present, would be reasonably minimal.

'Another idea, just out of the blue, is to reverse the finishing order of the previous race to form the grid. It would make for some good racing. I haven't considered the detailed implications, but it's a thought. We need to do something.'

Schumacher and Patrese contribute to the spectacle and the team's cause, fighting through for second and third places, Benetton's best result of the season to date. Schumacher moves up to third in the championship, Patrese to fifth.

After the race, mechanics and technicians gather with family and friends at the team's motorhome. 'It's been a good day,' Bennett says. 'You always want to do well at home, in front of people you know. It means a lot to all the lads and makes a hard weekend's work all worthwhile.'

Designs on Victory, the inside story of Camel Benetton-Ford, by Derick Allsop, is to be published by Stanley Paul later in the year.