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Ford and Cosworth

FORD'S planned Motorsport Technology Department, announced in Detroit in January, is now up and running and its head John Valentine turned up in Hungary to have a look at Ford's involvement in F1 amid rumors that there has been a serious split between Ford and engine-builders Cosworth over the disastrous V10 program this year with Sauber.

There were stories in Budapest that the Ford-Cosworth relationship has reached such a low point that Ford is threatening to terminate its Cosworth F1 contract and establish its own engine design facility in Milton Keynes, England, close to the base of Ford's nominated factory F1 team for 1997-2001 Stewart Grand Prix. With the kind of resources available to Ford - financial, technological and human - this could easily be achieved in time for 1998. We also hear that Ford recently tried to buy Cosworth from its parent company Vickers but was turned down.

All this may sound very radical - given that Ford helped Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth found the company in 1959. The legendary 3-liter Ford Cosworth DFV, and its derivatives, have scored 155 Grand Prix wins between 1967 and 1983.

In March 1990, Cosworth was bought by Vickers PLC for around $250m, but recently there have been signs of discontent among its established F1 personnel. In May last year, for example, the company's chief F1 engine designer Geoff Goddard quit Cosworth after 21 years to take up a new job at TWR. In recent weeks two other engine designers have moved to Lola's new F1 engine company.

Since the end of last year - when Ford redefined its aims in motorsport - there has been an ongoing study by Ford engineers into how rival corporations approach the sport, using motorsport to improve road car technology, advertise products, motivate workforces and stimulate competitive thinking within corporations.

When Ford announced its deal with Stewart Grand Prix it said that this relationship would be a more integrated partnership than any previous F1 engine deal and would include Ford engineers being involved in chassis development, aerodynamics, electronics and other technologies.

John Valentine's new motorsport department at the Ford Advanced Vehicle Technical Center in Dearborn now employs 50 people in five divisions: electronics and F1 (under Ford's new F1 manager Jim Winkelmann); computer-aided engineering; vehicle dynamics; testing and methods; and materials research.

The implication of the new department is that Ford is tending towards the idea of running its own technical programs in-house to ensure the highest quality and motivation. If this logic is carried through into engine design, Ford should be looking very seriously at setting up its own F1 engine facility - which could perhaps at a later date also commercialize the engines its builds.

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