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BMW planning F1 assault in 1997

WE hear that BMW Motorsport in Munich, Germany, is quietly gearing up to be ready to enter Grand Prix racing in 1997.

BMW was involved in Formula 1 in the turbo days between 1982 and 1986, initially with Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham team - which won the 1983 World Championship with Nelson Piquet - but later with Benetton and ATS. The company quit F1 in 1986 as a result of financial constraints but the Motorsport department has continued to watch developments in F1 ever since. In 1990, BMW commissioned Simtek Research to design an F1 chassis in secret, but the project was stopped in 1991.

The arrival of Mercedes-Benz in F1 in 1993 meant BMW once again considered F1, but the decision was delayed for two years. We believe that the company has now decided on a program for the future.

BMW has been in direct competition with Mercedes-Benz since the launch of the BMW 7-Series of luxury cars in 1986. In 1992, BMW actually outsold Mercedes in Europe and a boom in trade worldwide has seen the company become Europe's top automobile exporter - with a 5% share of the world car market - and also the opening of a factory in the United States. BMW also recently bought the Rover Group from British Aerospace and Honda.

Brian Hart has had long talks with Rover in recent months about badging his F1 engines, but BMW Motorsport - which is now run by Adolf Prommesberger - also has its own engine development program under Paul Rosche, who ran the technical department in the old BMW turbo days.

Whispers in the paddock suggest that BMW might join Williams but we have also heard that the company is considering a deal with a current F3000 team.

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