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Sauber to keep Fords in 1997?

THE Sauber team looks like keeping its Ford V10 engines in 1997, despite the fact that Stewart Grand Prix continues to suggest that it has an exclusive deal to run the Zetec-R units.

A deal with Sauber would be a sensible insurance policy for Ford just in case Stewart is not immediately successful, given that Jackie Stewart's outfit has no manufacturing base and will have to rely entirely on outside suppliers to supply the hardware until investment can be made in a manufacturing infrastructure.

From a Sauber point of view a new Ford deal is logical as there is no obvious alternative for the 1997 season. There is also the attractive possibility that Sauber show very well against Stewart in its first year with what would be slightly inferior engines and would thus be better placed to find another engine deal in 1998. The question of the funding of a Sauber supply is a problem, as Sauber is currently getting not only free engines but also financial and technical support from Ford.

Cosworth Engineering - which designs and builds Ford's competition engines - would be happy to do such a deal as it would mean extra income. Jackie Stewart has always said that he has a five year exclusive deal, but Ford men do not say the same. The machinations at Ford are likely to have a major effect on the future of Brian Hart as an F1 engine supplier, as it seems quite likely that Brian will not be supplying TWR/Arrows next year as there is rumored to be a Mugen Honda deal in the offing for Walkinshaw's outfit. This might open the way for Hart to supply Ligier, but the French team is currently in such a state that Brian may choose to quit F1 rather than get involved at Magny-Cours. Ligier is also trying hard to get a deal with Renault for next year but this is very unlikely.

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