|Prost AP02 Peugeot|
Just ahead of the 1997 Formula 1 season, four-time World Champion Alain Prost bought the Ligier team from Flavio Briatore. The team was renamed Prost Grand Prix but the new-for-1997 JS45 retained its Ligier type name. Powered by a Mugen V10 engine, it was moderately successful with two podium finishes in the hands of 1996 Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis.
Prost's objective for his Grand Prix team was to represent France in the best way possible. A major step in this direction was to secure an engine supply deal with Peugeot for the 1998 season. The now all-French car was backed by tobacco company Gauloises and Panis was retained as the lead driver. Unfortunately the season started off disastrous with teething gearbox problems and in the end only a single point was scored with the 'AP01'.
To improve the team's fortunes in 1999, the hugely experienced and successful John Barnard was added to Prost's engineering staff. The result of their labour was the AP02, which was very much a conventional design. The carbon-fibre monocoque chassis was suspended by double wishbones with push-rod actuated torsion-bars on all four corners. The most distinguishing features of the AP02 were the small wings mounted on the side-pods.
What remained unchanged was the engine deal with Peugeot, who supplied the latest version of the French manufacturer's V10. in 'A18' guise the three-litre engine produced close to 800 bhp at around 17,000 rpm. Olivier Panis also stayed loyal to the French team as did the young Italian driver Jarno Trulli, who had scored the team's only point in 1998.
The season did not get off to the best of starts with two retirements at the Australian Grand Prix but by the next race the first point was on the board courtesy of Panis' sixth place finish in Brazil. Reliability issues continued to dog the team in the early stages of the championship and when the AP02 did reach the finish it struggled to break into the top six. Trulli put in a very strong drive to finish second at a very tumultuous European Grand Prix on the Nürburgring.
After all that effort, nine points and a seventh position in the constructor's championship was a small reward for Prost Grand Prix. The team soldiered on in 2000 but once again with little success. At the end of the year both Gauloises and Peugeot ended their relationship with Prost. The steady decline in the team's fortunes ended with a bankruptcy early in 2002. Deeply disillusioned, Prost described this as a disaster for France.
Jarno Trulli's hard-fought second place finish at the Nürburgring was the last podium finish for the team that had upheld France's honour for just over two decades.
Article by Wouter Melissen, last updated on January 03, 2013
Add your comments on the Prost AP02 Peugeot