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

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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

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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28 comments on “Celebrity chef to drive 1996 Benetton B196 at Monte-Carlo (Pictures)”

  1. Props to saturday kitchen, it is probably one of the best of the various cooking shows, plus James Martin makes a very good host.

    Plus the show did come up with a rival to Top Gear’s ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’, by pitting celebrity chefs against each other to see who could make a basic omlette in the fastest time. Some of the fastest times looked a tad raw and probably salmonella-ridden though!

    I do have fond memories of the 1996 grid, and the Benetton was a particularly smart one amongst the bunch.

  2. One of my favourite cars. Wish the current liveries looked as good as this

  3. I hope he gets a bit further than his last Mille Miglia attempt.

  4. Saturday kitchen is great. I highly recommend the Piri Piri prawn recipe from a couple of years ago. Oh, and the car is pretty cool too.

  5. I’m sorry but F1 should not allow things like this. I spend all of my time trying to convince my friends that F1 drivers are athletes and partake in one of the most difficult sports, and then my arguments are shot down because of stunts like this. My friends will say, “See, Brian, ANYONE can drive a race car. All you do is sit and drive.”
    I’m sorry but, F1 needs to put a stop to this. NOW!!!

    1. Anyone can run 100 meters or kick a football. Doesn’t mean they can do it anywhere near as good as the professionals, though.

      1. Anyone can drive a racing car. Not anyone can drive it well though. Just watch Hammond on Top Gear in the R26 (??)

        1. Sush Meerkat
          31st July 2009, 18:17

          That was the R24, it was one with the V10 at 72% angle.

          Also, the track he was on was too short to take advantage of what it could do, the track chosen chosen was short on purpose. Any bigger and Hammond would have binned it.

          I’m pretty sure the Stig driving it round the track was Heikki in a Stig suit.

          1. StrFerrari4Ever
            31st July 2009, 20:27

            Wrong Hammond drove the R25 and your correct on the short circuit thing if it was larger they would’ve trashed Nando’s title winning beast.

          2. Sush Meerkat
            1st August 2009, 0:44

            Wrong Hammond drove the R25 and your correct on the short circuit thing if it was larger they would’ve trashed Nando’s title winning beast.

            I do apologise, you are correct, its the R25, with the 110% V10 engine.

            But thanks on agreeing that it was a short track, it made the V10 too whinny, normally a V10 gurgles at its top end and the sound from the Top Gear film you get the RS25 screaming out like its in 2nd gear.

    2. Your friends are right, and you are not. Simple as that. Get real, Brian.

      1. The only ones that should get to step foot in any F1 car are men and women that have grown up working their way to F1. Not some celebrity just because they have money to throw around.

        1. Hahaha.
          An F1 car is just a piece of machinery, like any other car. It isn’t any kind sanctitiy that only the oldest munks can get a hold of.

          1. Ma foi,you are right.

    3. I don’t think a celebrity entering a historic car race undermines the sporting integrity of F1 any more than footballers playing testimonial matches does.

  6. Sush Meerkat
    31st July 2009, 18:18

    can I just say how beautiful that car is. ITS STUNNING.

  7. This is what I hate. A ‘Celebrity chef’ who is just a cook gets to do this.

    Martin is only a chef, yet has a column in a major newspaper testing cars. What the hell does he know about cars or F1?

    He’s a cook, he has no qualifications on car design, racing or aerodynamics. He just spouts total rubbish on cars (I read his column once – he doesn’t know what he’s talking about).

    This is the problem with so-called celebrities. They get a chance to do something they know nothing about, yet those who do know about cars and F1 do not get a chance to do something like this.

    1. I’ve met him once, he is a proper car fan. Rifles through car mags in between filming his programmes hunting for his next purchase.

      If I had a stack of money to spend a fair bit of it would go into indulging my passion for racing cars. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

  8. i’m cooking a curry as i speak(type) does that mean i can drive the mclaren mp4\4?????
    if not i am going to take my mr benn and play somewhere else.

  9. Robert McKay
    1st August 2009, 0:20

    I admit I don’t know an awful lot about the EuroBOSS series in terms of how real proper serious it is but I think there’s a great niche in the motorsports “market” for a decent “retro F1” series.

    Although maybe it’s just too specialised and too awkward to do well.

    What is EuroBOSS like?

    1. EuroBOSS is a bit of a mixed bag. At the one end there are very serious, well funded drivers who run 10-15 year old F1 cars very professionally. At the other end of the grid there are older F1 cars, IndyCars, F2 and F3000 cars. The field spread is fairly wide.

      There are a couple of series dedicated to proper, historic F1 cars – google “thoroughbred f1”. These are mostly late 1960s, 1970s and mid 1980s cars which are run to a high standard in the proper liveries. They’re mostly Cosworth DFV-powered cars, but there’s the occasional Ferrari too. They make a fantastic noise and the top drivers really race one another.

      1. Thanks for your post Tim. I semi-expected what you say about EuroBOSS. Didn’t realise there were other historical series though, will check them out, cheers :-)

  10. What you really need to look at is this car can run nose to tail and pass other cars …unlike today, thank Max nazi and Bernie hitler for the lack of setting rules for the long term

  11. I have just seen him on fifth gear and he was not bad, miles ahead of Hammond. Jason Plato said he went round the track in about 37secs and won the bet with him. Plato did about 35secs. Apparantly James Martin has a racing license.

  12. This is wrong this sooooooooo wrong!!! Please god, put a stop this madness…..
    To dramatic?

    1. Yes.

  13. Why can’t a chef drive cars? James is a car nut, he takes driving very seriously. He managed 37 seconds in the F1 car and didnt crash it, so what exactly is the problem. I think maybe you blokes just dont like the fact that James has the talent and the money to indulge his passion for cars, plus the ladies love him.
    After all, he only had one driving lesson one hour before his test and passed first time, having driven cars at his fathers farm since he could walk.

    1. J Wilson, I can’t agree more.
      James is a first class chef and a great car enthusiast. This blog seems to have its fair share of blokes who are just plain envious of his money, talent and good looks. To say you have to grow up in F1, well not everyone has that opportunity, but that doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to drive one of those cars some day.
      James, best of luck with the Monte Carlo race.

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