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Sauber-Ford decision due soon

FORD MOTOR COMPANY top management will meet in Detroit next Monday - the day after the Detroit Indycar race - to discuss whether or not the company wants to supply Sauber with its V10 engines next season.

Sauber is currently the Ford factory team but has been badly let down this year by the lack of competitiveness of the all-new Zetec-R V10 engine. Ford decided long before this season began to supply the V10 to the new Stewart Grand Prix team in 1997 but it now needs to address the problem of whether it would be a good idea to continue to supply Sauber with the engines on a customer basis. We understand that the Swiss team would get a slightly older specification engine to Stewart.

Sauber certainly needs an engine for next year and it makes a great deal of sense for the team to stick with the same units to produce some good results. This would also be good for Ford because the new Stewart operation is bound to have a few problems in its first F1 season, given that the team does not have the infrastructure necessary to compete immediately at the same level as the top F1 teams.

There is a danger, however, that Sauber might outperform Stewart dramatically, despite having less powerful engines, and that would produce political problems and would be an embarrassment to Stewart.

The final decision will be interesting as it will show just how much power Jackie Stewart has in the corridors of Ford World Headquarters at Dearborn, and how much Ford management are willing to listen to its F1 specialists who are thought likely to argue in favor of continuing with Sauber - if only as an insurance policy.

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