Eyckmans talking F1

FORMER Formula 3000 driver Wim Eyckmans says that he is planning to put together his own Grand Prix team for the 1998 season. The 24-year-old Belgian was a successful kart racer in the late 1980s and moved up to Formula 3000 via the Formula Opel Euroseries with his own Racing Wim Eyckmans.

With backing from Pennzoil and French dog food manufacturer Royal Canin, he proved to be quite a promising driver but the following season he switched to Vortex Motorsport without much success and ended up back in his own private team. He did not reappear in 1996.

Since then he has been looking for money to start his own F1 operation with American backing. The most likely connection is Pennzoil - which supported him in F3000.

The Houston-based oil company - which grew out of Zapata Petroleum, founded after the war by George Bush and brothers Hugh and Bill Liedtke - is also involved in the sulfur trade, operating a sulfur terminal in Antwerp, Belgium - where Eyckmans is based.

Pennzoil took its first steps into F1 this year with the now-defunct Mastercard Lola team, but the company has a long and illustrious history in motor racing - notably with Jim Hall's Chaparral and with Roger Penske. Pennzoil is currently America's number one selling motor oil and operates Jiffy Lube, the world's largest franchiser of quick lubrication centers. In recent years the company has begun to look more internationally with new exploration deals in Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Canada and Qatar.

Traditionally an aggressive company Pennzoil invented the leveraged-buyout in 1965 when it took over United Gas. It later won $3bn of damages from Texaco in a dispute over the purchase of Getty Oil and more recently had to be bought off by Chevron to stop an attempt at a leveraged-buyout.

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