AUGUST 19, 1996
Walkinshaw and Peugeot II
THE talks between Tom Walkinshaw and Peugeot for a supply of engines in 1997 - which we mentioned last week - are serious with Peugeot Sport staff having visited the TWR factory at Leafield, in England.
Although in theory Jordan has an exclusive Peugeot engine supply deal until the end of 1997, the Jordan-Peugeot relationship has not been a great success and there is pressure on Peugeot Sport to start winning after three seasons in F1.
Peugeot started out optimistically in Grand Prix racing with a four-year deal to race with McLaren. The first season saw a total of 42 points collected by Mika Hakkinen and Martin Brundle. At the end of that season, however, McLaren forced Peugeot to terminate the agreement because it wanted to do a deal with Mercedes-Benz. This left Peugeot in the lurch with the only real option being to ally with Jordan.
The 1995 season was seen as a period in which Jordan would built up its infrastructure and move into the big league. The Jordan-Peugeot combination scored only 21 points but the partners were optimistic that 1996 would bring some big results. This has not happened. The Peugeot engine has become powerful and reliable but the Jordan chassis is not good enough to enable the team to challenge for victory, and Brundle and Rubens Barrichello have scored only 15 points in 12 races.
There is considerable pressure within Peugeot for the F1 program to be a success. Peugeot bosses do not wish to be seen failing in a sport where Renault - Peugeot's biggest rival - has been a great success.
Jordan has grown, but it is still a long way from being "a big team" and the stresses of growth have led in recent months to a steady flow of staff defection from Jordan to other teams.
Walkinshaw needs an engine for the Arrows team but does not want to waste 1997 waiting for a deal to start in 1998. His chances of getting a contract with Honda have faded in recent days and with his own normally-aspirated V10 project needing financing, he has begun looking around at the other options available.
Peugeot is the logical choice. What Walkinshaw now needs to do is to hire a top designer to convince the French that he is capable of building a car to do the job. His Leafield facility will certainly have impressed the engineers at Peugeot - it is in a different league to a small F1 base such as Jordan's Silverstone facility - and Walkinshaw has a Bridgestone contract in his pocket which could prove to be a big advantage over the Goodyear teams next year.
To switch teams Peugeot will need to have a board meeting and in France such things are simply not possible in August as most of the country's top executives are on holiday. Once they are back in Paris, however, a decision could be taken very quickly. Jordan says that it is safe from the raiding Tom.
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