MARCH 31, 1997
Jakobi, Pollack, Reynard and other rumors
FOR some weeks there have been whispers in Formula 1 circles that Reynard Racing Cars is once again planning to enter Grand Prix racing. It has been unclear as to who else might be involved with Reynard but in the days leading up to the Brazilian GP the names of Jacques Villeneuve's manager Craig Pollock and his financial advisor Julian Jakobi have surfaced as possible team owners.
Jakobi has been around F1 for many years, initially working for Mark McCormack's International Management Group, working with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. Eventually he decided to set up his own business - FJ Associates - to work directly with Senna, looking after much of the setting-up of Ayrton Senna Licensing's activities around the world. After Senna's death in 1994 he also became involved in the running of the Senna Foundation.
He has long had ambitions of forming his own F1 team and there were strong indications at the end of 1994 that he was trying to convince the Senna Family to set up a Senna F1 team to promote the licensing operations and fund the Foundation. This never happened.
In July 1995 Jakobi began working with Prost again, helping Alain with the planning for his F1 team, when that failed to happen Jakobi became involved with Jacques Villeneuve's career.
Pollock has been Villeneuve's manager for some years but prior to that was a teacher at the private school which Jacques attended in Switzerland. Pollock and Jakobi are also believed to be involved in guiding the career of young Scotsman Dario Franchitti, who is currently competing in CART.
Both Pollock and Jakobi deny that there are any concrete plans for an F1 project with Reynard although it is clear that they do have the ambition to become team owners in the longer-term.
The interesting question is how such a scheme could be funded. In Brazil there were a variety of rumors suggesting possible sponsorship deals with British American Tobacco's Lucky Strike cigarette brand, with Canadian cigarette maker Players and even with Mastercard.
The involvement of Reynard in such a project is interesting as it would be a very different arrangement to the last time Reynard tried to establish his own F1 team in 1990, with the intention of entering F1 in 1992. He bought land and hired Rory Byrne and some of his engineers from Benetton and began negotiating for an engine deal with Yamaha. That deal fell through and Reynard sold his entire project - including the Enstone factory - to Benetton.
There have been suggestions in the last few days that Reynard has just bought another plot of land, 12 miles from Silverstone for a new F1 factory. Logic dictates that there will be at least an 18-month lead time on the project, which would suggest that if a team is to happen it will not be in F1 before the start of 1999, by which time Villeneuve might be available to drive.
Reynard is not likely to want to try to fund his own program as the last F1 project left the company with serious financial difficulties, thus a money source needs to be found to help the team pay for an engine.
Reynard has always said that he will not enter any formula unless he thinks his car has the chance to win its first race. To do that would require a tried and tested engine, rather than a new power unit. There have been rumors about deals with Toyota and Chrysler but it is more likely that Reynard would want a Mugen Honda or a Mecachrome.
One suggestion we did hear is that the entire enterprise could be bankrolled by the Panoz Family in America, for which Reynard is building GT sportscars at the moment. Don Panoz is building his own road cars in America and using the sport to promote them. The plans for production suggest that by 1999 the company would probably be looking at international sales. Panoz has already shown an interest in F1, saying that he would like to upgrade Road Atlanta, which he owns, so that it could host a United States Grand Prix.
It should also be noted that Reynard has had talks with Alain Prost about building his F1 cars for him; Jakobi has strong links with Prost and that Alain has been tipped as a possible recipient of Lucky Strike sponsorship. Having the French-speaking Jacques Villeneuve as a driver would probably also be interesting for Prost and Peugeot.
The planned team could be a combination of all or some of these elements, although there might be more than one project being suggested to Reynard and these are being confused by a frantic rumor mill.
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