Ferrari’s F-2003 GA débuts in Barcelona this weekend, and the Scuderia’s chief designer, South African-born Rory Byrne, is confident that the car will be a winner straight out of the box.

Ferrari’s F-2003 GA débuts in Barcelona this weekend, and the Scuderia’s chief designer, South African-born Rory Byrne, is confident that the car will be a winner straight out of the box.

Ironically, the 59-year-old “Boy from Bedfordview” will probably not know how his latest creation, the Ferrari 2003GA fared at the Spanish Grand Prix. Rory, his wife and two-year-old son will be on a flight from Mauritius, where the Byrnes are currently enjoying a week-long holiday.

After months of development, the F-2003 GA is ready to race and Rory says it is without a doubt the best car that he has ever produced (something he has said every year since 1981), when he designed his first F1 car for Toleman.

”In the past you were never quite sure that the new car was going to be a lot better,” the South African said. “But these days you know its going to be a better car than its predecessor and there is no way you will produce a lemon.

“I look after four separate working groups; design, structures, aerodynamics, vehicle dynamics and I am also involved in the research and development program. We know from all areas of the car that we have made improvements and that the whole combined 2003 package will be a good step forward in performance on the previous car, even before it has turned a wheel,” he added.

Now that the design and construction of the 2003 challenger is virtually finished, Byrne’s only worries are mechanical issues that might occur due to the changes.

“We can calculate and simulate all the load factors for every part of the car based on the worst case scenarios, like riding kerbs in Monza or taking Eau Rouge in Spa, but there are always small problems that crop up because of different materials being used or different mounting methods or even human error,” said Byrne - referring to the two shunts that test driver Luca Badoer had at Jerez and Mugello during the early test sessions with the new car.

The design team has since corrected those problems and is now confident that the new car will be as successful as the 2002 chassis.

Ferrari originally planned to give the 2003 car its first outing at its home race in Imola, but in the lead up to the San Marino Grand Prix the F-2003 GA had only completed one full race distance.

“The new points system has made reliability very important and we preferred to wait until we had done some more miles,” he said.

“The chassis construction of the F-2003 GA is similar to the F-2002, but the side and rear crash structures are completely different as there is less room than before. The aerodynamics and weight distribution have been improved with the new type-52 engine, which was created especially for that purpose and not uniquely to find a few extra revs and a bit more power.

“The aerodynamic efficiency around the turning veins has been considerably improved, while the gearbox is a refined version of last year's ‘box. Every area of the car has been improved and we are sure it will be a significant step forward,” Byrne added.

Byrne’s working group is hard at work developing the new F-2003 GA in order to cope with the current rules, which now allows only a front wing adjustment to the car between qualifying and the race: “It presents a whole new set of problems that requires a different approach than last year when we could change the set-up of the car as much as we wanted between qualifying and the race.”

The paddock is a place, on race weekends at least, where one won’t see a lot of Rory Byrne.

“I will visit the races in Italy because I can drive there for a day to see what's going on, but I do not really have a role to play at the races. That's (technical director) Ross Brawn’s job to handle the technical side at the races. I go to quite a few test sessions which is all I need to do at the race track,” he said.