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Minardi planning ahead

GIANCARLO MINARDI has spoken out against reports suggesting that he is planning to close down his F1 team next year - after 11 years in the sport.

Minardi said that a decision on the team's engines will soon be taken and that he has high hopes of a works engine agreement.

It is expected that Minardi will get a supply of Ferrari V12 engines while the Ferrari team switches over to a new V10 engine. The older engines will be rebuilt outside Ferrari and will not cause the team any drain on resources.

The remaining opposition at Maranello appears to be centered on the possibility that a Minardi-Ferrari might do sufficiently well on occasion to embarrass the hugely-funded factory operation, a situation which would not be appreciated by the Fiat empire and Ferrari's sponsors.

There does not appear to be much hope of Minardi finding a manufacturer engine elsewhere - a problem which is facing all the current smaller F1 teams. In order to design and built an F1 engine, a new manufacturer in F1 would have to allow for a program lasting several years. A better policy would probably be to do a deal to fund existing F1 engine-builders and badge the resulting power unit. The problem with this theory is that F1 has run out of engine-builders who are free to badge engines: Cosworth is tied (as ever) to Ford, John Judd is tied to Yamaha; Mugen to Honda; Ilmor Engineering to Mercedes and we hear that Brian Hart has agreed to supply Arrows again next year - the supply may be badged by a manufacturer.

The other F1 engines are all produced in-house at Ferrari, Peugeot and Renault, and their connections take out other engine firms which might have F1 pretensions. Oral Engineering in Modena, Italy is expected to rebuild Ferrari V12s for Minardi or V10s for the factory; while Mecachrome in France is tied to Renault.

The current log-jam is such that Tom Walkinshaw seems to be in the process of putting together his own F1 engine program for the future, around ex-Cosworth engineer Geoff Goddard.

The recent change in the F1 rules from 3.5-liter to 3-liter engines could, however, open up Grand Prix racing to a new generation of engine companies which have been busy in recent years tuning and developing 3-liter engines in Formula 3000. With the change in F3000 rules next year companies such as Switzerland's Heini Mader, Tickford of Milton Keynes, Neil Brown Engineering of Spalding; Nicholson-McLaren of Hounslow and Zytek of Derby may decide that the time is right to move into F1 with backing from manufacturers keen to get into F1.

For the smaller teams such as Forti, Pacific and newcomers like DAMS the F3000 route is probably their only sensible option. This year Cosworth's expensive customer engines have been very disappointing and it looks likely that the company - under pressure from Ford, which does not want to be associated with the customer program - may choose to drop the program, leaving the surviving small teams without any engine supply. Pacific, Forti and DAMS all come from F3000 where they have each enjoyed close relationships with the engine tuners.

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