JUNE 23, 1997
Nissan and Formula 1
REPORTS in the German motor racing press that Nissan has a Formula 1 project with Tom Walkinshaw should be treated with some care. The rumors suggest that Walkinshaw will put a Nissan badge on Mecachrome V10 engines, in a deal similar to that which is currently in place between Sauber Petronas and Ferrari.
Nissan is the fourth largest car company in the world. It is heavily involved in touring car racing with the Primera model but also has a deal with Tom Walkinshaw Racing in sportscar racing. The TWR-built Nissan R390s ran for the first time in March this year and raced at Le Mans last week, although gearbox trouble forced two of the three cars to retire.
Nissan sources say that the company is committed to racing at Le Mans for the next five years and is contemplating a full FIA GT World Championship challenge next year. Nissan is also involved in top level rallying with Subaru, which it has owned since taking control of Fuji Heavy Industries in 1990.
The recent economic problems in Japan have meant that Nissan has had to adopt a more aggressive international expansion policy but an F1 program seems a little advanced for what is a highly conservative company.
The most likely explanation for the rumor is that it is an attempt to destabilize Walkinshaw as he negotiates with Hirotoshi Honda for a supply of Mugen Honda V10 F1 engines.
Walkinshaw's prime aim appears to be to get the Mugen Honda deal and in an effort to help convince the Japanese he has not only hired John Barnard as his designer but has also been trying to recruit Honda favorite Ron Tauranac as an engineering consultant to the team.
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