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What now for Arrows?

IF Mugen confirms that it is intending to supply Eddie Jordan with its V10 engines in the future, Tom Walkinshaw's plans to create a front running F1 operation will receive a major setback. The team's star driver World Champion Damon Hill is disappointed with performance this year and is unlikely to stay with the team in 1998 unless there is a more competitive engine package available. He has received offers from several other teams, notably Alain Prost, who is rumored to want a swift decision from Damon. Hill is pushing Walkinshaw for a decision on engines and the most likely source of engines would have to be the second Mecachrome supply. - which Tom apparently can afford to pay for.

The only team which has actually put down a deposit for the expensive Mecachrome V10s (rebadged Renaults) is Williams, while Benetton continues to struggle to try to find the $22m budget necessary to secure a deal. Mecachrome is understood to have looked at whether it might be able to supply a third team but seems to have decided that two teams is enough.

If Benetton finds the money for the Mecachrome deal Walkinshaw will have to look elsewhere and that is a problem as good engines are thin on the ground.

The possibility of a second supply of Mercedes-Benz engines has already been discounted by Ilmor's Mario Illien. "We have an exclusive contract with McLaren," Illien commented in Barcelona. "It would be a major investment to expand because we do not have the infrastructure to do it and I'm against the idea. It would be impossible to have a close relationship with one team and we have a very good relationship with McLaren."

Ford might be another option but it seems that Jackie Stewart is successfully convincing the company's top management that it must concentrate on one team and not divide its efforts.

The idea of continuing with Yamaha or developing an in-house engine would not be sufficiently persuasive an argument to enable Tom to keep hold of Damon Hill.

Mugen could possibly supply two teams but it is not likely that this would be Jordan and Arrows as Mugen's long-term intention appears to be to expand to two teams in 1999 with one lot of engines for the planned Dome F1 team. Given the current political situation in F1, however, the only sensible way for a team like Dome to enter Grand Prix racing would be by buying into - or being bought by - an existing team.

With his back to the wall Tom Walkinshaw is a formidable opponent and in the next few days he and his marketing chief Daniele Audetto will be flat out trying to convince Hirotoshi Honda that Arrows is the best long term bet for Mugen and Honda.

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