Motor racing-HRT unveil new car with parts still in customs

BARCELONA, March 11 Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:41pm GMT

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BARCELONA, March 11 (Reuters) - Hispania unveiled their 2011 Formula One car on Friday with just one full day of testing left before the Australian season-opener and some parts caught in customs.

Even as Indian Narain Karthikeyan and Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi pulled the wraps off the HRT F111, tired team principal Colin Kolles recognised that at least one driver might have to wait until Melbourne to drive it for the first time.

"We are trying to prepare it to run it," he told Reuters in the Circuit de Catalunya pitlane after mechanics had wheeled the Cosworth-powered car out of the garage into the Spanish sunshine.

"We will do systems checks, we will do the fire-up and then we will see," added Kolles, who said he had just two hours sleep before flying in from Stuttgart for the launch of the last of the 2011 cars.

"We still wait for some suspension parts for dampers which are in customs...we just have to get it out somehow and the plan is to run tomorrow."

Strugglers HRT were one of three new teams last season, all of whom failed to score a point, and did not test their 2010 car until first practice in Bahrain that year.

The Spanish-owned team has tested with their old car, giving Karthikeyan -- who last raced for Jordan in 2005 -- a chance to get at least some laps under his belt.

"Obviously we are going to get very limited time in the car," the Indian told Reuters. "We are under no illusion that Australia will definitely be tough...the reliability is going to be the biggest question mark for now."

The season starts in Melbourne on March 27.

QUICKER CAR

Former Force India driver Liuzzi's signing was announced only on Wednesday but, with far more experience than Karthikeyan, is likely to be the one to test it first.

"Narain had a lot of running on the other car. Antonio had little running on the other car. I think that they should be fine," said Kolles.

A rule which excludes a driver from taking part in a race if his best lap in qualifying exceeds 107 percent of the fastest time in the session has been revived this season, but Kolles and Karthikeyan were confident the HRT would be quick enough.

"I think that this car is quicker than our old car and our old car was not above the 107 percent rule," said Kolles.

"The data we have is that the car is better than last year's...it's completely aerodynamically modified," he added. "The others have lost a little bit, we have gained a little bit so let's see where we are."

Karthikeyan agreed: "The numbers look good. Qualifying won't be the problem...I think when it all comes together we will surprise a lot of people.

"I'm reasonably confident, we have a good set of people...this year is going to be a completely different story."

Branding for Tata Group, owners of carmaker Jaguar and Karthikeyan's backers, was prominent on the car and Kolles said they were playing an important role as technical partners.

"Tata is providing us with the resources to improve the car," he said, adding that other sponsors were in the pipeline.

HRT were strapped for cash last year but Kolles said the way ahead was clear now: "We have a budget, the budget has been approved and we are working on this."

(Editing by Justin Palmer; To query or comment on this story emailsportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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