Celebrity chef to drive 1996 Benetton B196 at Monte-Carlo (Pictures)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The Benetton B196 TV chef James Martin will drive at Monaco
The Benetton B196 TV chef James Martin will drive at Monaco

Celebrity news is not normally my thing, but I like “Saturday Kitchen” and I like F1 cars (you may have noticed) so this story squeaks in.

TV chef James Martin is to indulge his passion for cars by driving a 1996 Benetton B196 in the Monaco Historic Grand Prix next year. The event for historic F1 cars takes place on the Monte-Carlo circuit.

Martin has been driver coached by former British Touring Car Champion Jason Plato. Plato is also a TV presenter for Channel Five’s Fifth Gear.

He tested the car for the first time on Silverstone’s Stowe Circuit. You can see a video of the test here.

The B196 is in its original livery, but the renault V10 engine used in 1996 has been replaced with a Judd V10.

A keen car collector, Martin previously drove an ex-Stirling Moss Gullwing Mercedes in the Mille Miglia historic race.

The ex-Gerhard Berger car is owned by Cars International. Here’s what they had to say about the car:

Benetton entered the 1996 F1 World Championship with the quite reasonable expectation to win a third title in succesion, as they had in 1994 and especially in1995 utilising the now legendary relationship between Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher in a team led by Flavio Briatore, resulted in 11 wins of the 16 rounds – a crushing defeat for the other teams.

So It was no coincidence then, that the launch of the Mild Seven B196, the first Benetton to race under Italian Nationality, was the most lavish in the team?s history, Benetton took over the Hill top town of Taormina in Sicily where 700 guests and journalists were present to hear Flavio emphasise Benetton were as strong as ever and ??life without Michael? would have no serious effect on their performance for 1996. Sadly this proved not to be the case as the 2 new drivers for 96, Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger, failed to deliver, not in quality but in quantity, added to which they had both come from Ferrari with the fixed methods that entailed and Benetton duly paid the price.

??Strangely enough? said Ross Brawn, ??we have made a lot of progress with the B196 because of the position we found ourselves in, we had to review certain aspects of the car which in the Schumacher era we did not have to as we were performing?.

Overall the B196 was a logical development of the World Championship winning B195 to accommodate the latest technical and safety regulations, but distinguished by a new 7-speed gearbox.

Whilst the team produced no wins in 96, nearly without exception they qualified in the top 6, set fastest laps and went on to lead races, most notably Alesi for 21 laps at Monaco, 25 laps in Italy and Berger for 31 Laps in Germany, culminating in the B196 finishing 3rd in the constructors championship with 68 points, only 2 behind Ferrari and Alesi 4th in the Drivers Championship with 47 points. Our chassis #04 was used in Japan by Berger to good effect qualifying and finishing 4th and was on hand as a spare car at all other rounds.

B196 #04 was retired in 1997 and was sold by the team to a well-known collector and enthusiastic historic F1 driver who we recently purchased the car from along with all equipment to run and maintain it in the foreseeable future.

A fully documented rebuild has just taken place in house, by our own recent Ex F1 engineers, to current GP standards including crack test certifications; it remains in original livery and retains all the original features including the 7-speed gearbox and paddle shift.

Eminently suitable as an entry into FV10 ownership which would include a guaranteed re-purchase scheme and value to upgrade to a post 2000 Cosworth powered car or is just as at home as a front runner in the EuroBOSS series.


More pictures: Pictures: 2008 Monaco Historic GP