McLaren goes West...

AN hour after the announcement that Marlboro was quitting McLaren the Woking team revealed that it has, as had been rumored, signed a deal with West cigarettes. The team will be known as the West McLaren Mercedes for a five-year period from 1997.

It is doubtful whether the German cigarette manufacturer will be able to pay the kind of money which McLaren has been enjoying in recent years from Marlboro - there are not many companies in the world capable of investing $40m a year in F1 - but money does not seem to be a problem. The majority shareholder in Reemtsma is the vast industrial Tchibo Group - which holds 63% of the shares. The Reemtsma family - which founded the company in 1910 and still controls 20.9% of the shares - proved in March that money is no object when they paid a ransom of $19.6m to kidnappers for the release of JanĘPhilipp Reemtsma after 33 days of captivity.

Reemtsma is traditionally a very conservative company and many felt that after its disastrous experiences in F1 with Zakspeed between 1985 and 1988 that it would steer clear of the sport, but the company's ambitions to become the number one European tobacco seller by the year 2000 meant that it had to adopt a high profile strategy. Landing a deal with McLaren was fortunate.

"When we first analyzed the opportunities that might be available, we never dreamed that our search would be ultimately so successful as to acquire the title rights to one of the giants of world sport," said Reemtsma chairman Ludger Staby.

While the press release was full of optimism for the future and will help McLaren boss Ron Dennis to save face after Marlboro's pull-out, the team's morale is still not good.

Dennis might be interested to know that teams advertising for F1 personnel report that they are receiving a large percentage of applications from current McLaren staff.

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