JUNE 16, 1997
Walkinshaw on a buying spree?
Lola has run successfully for 39 years and has exclusive contracts to supply chassis in Formula 3000 and in the Indy Lights series. It also has a few customers left in CART racing, something on which Tom could build.
The word in the paddock in Montreal was that Tom was also planning to build customer sportscars based on the Nissans which Tom was running at the Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend.
The Nissan connection is obviously important for Tom. He spent the weekend ferrying backwards and forwards between the Canadian Grand Prix and the Le Mans 24 Hours. He flew from Europe to Canada on Thursday, returned the following evening, arriving in France in time to be present for most of the 24 Hours before rushing to Paris to catch Concorde to NewÊYork in time to be in Canada for the start of the Grand Prix. After the race on Sunday Tom took off back to Europe again.
There was one other interesting suggestion in Montreal but it sounds rather far-fetched. Walkinshaw needs a competitive engine next year for Arrows to keep the package together and hold on to Damon Hill. The best engine deal available would seem to be the Mecachrome (nee Renault) V10s. At the moment there is only one confirmed supply - for Williams. Benetton is expected to have the same V10s if the team can raise the funding but it is doubtful whether Mecachrome is capable of supplying three teams. If Walkinshaw was to buy the Mecachrome company, he would not only be saving on engine bills but would also be acquiring a precision engineering company which has a wide range of business interests outside F1, including partnerships with Aerospatiale, jet engine-builder SNECMA and Automobiles Peugeot. Mecachrome is a well-established family company but in recent years it has suffered badly because of the shrinking of the French defense industry.