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Walkinshaw and Volvo

THERE have been rumors across Europe in recent days that Tom Walkinshaw and Volvo are planning a Formula 1 program for 1997 and beyond.

These stories can all be traced back to a report in a Swedish motorsport magazine which suggested that the new boss of the Arrows F1 team had convinced Volvo to pay to badge Brian Hart's V10 engine and thus run an Arrows-Volvo combination next year. There have even been suggestions that one of these cars would be driven by up-and-coming Swedish racing driver Kenny Brack.

There is a certain amount of logic in all this. Walkinshaw runs a pair of Volvo 850's in the British Touring Car Championship, but more importantly his TWR Group is in business with Volvo in a multi-million dollar joint venture called Auto Nova AB. The stated aim of this alliance is for Walkinshaw to manufacture "niche" vehicles for Volvo at a factory in Uddevalla in Sweden with the intention of dramatically changing the public perception of Volvo. The Swedish carmaker is currently seen as being safe but rather boring. An involvement in racing will certainly help that image but a touring car program seems more logical than F1 at the moment.

Thirty-year-old Brack last weekend won the opening round of the FIA F3000 International Championship at the Nurburgring, in Germany, driving for 1995 champions Super Nova. He has considerable backing from the Ericsson telecommunications company and is well-connected at Volvo. It was this connection which enabled him to test a Williams-Renault F1 car at Paul Ricard in 1993 - when Volvo was negotiating a merger with Renault. Brack was signed up by Walkinshaw at the start of this year as a Ligier test driver, but following Walkinshaw's withdrawal from Ligier is now expected to test for Arrows instead.

Despite all of this, however, we still believe that Walkinshaw's major aim at the moment is to secure the Honda factory engine supply for a long-term deal beginning in 1998. Such an alliance would, undoubtedly, be very competitive and establish the TWR Arrows combination as a winning force in F1. In the longer term Walkinshaw may well have plans for Volvo in F1 - probably with engines built by his own TWR engine department - which includes former Cosworth F1 designer Geoff Goddard, who was hired by Tom in May last year.

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