JULY 14, 1997
Walkinshaw and Ford
THE announcement that Jordan has secured the Mugen Honda V10 engine supply should have come as a setback to Tom Walkinshaw - but the Scotsman did not seem to be too bothered at Silverstone. In the course of the British GP meeting Arrows team's technical director John Barnard said that his design engineers have already started on the design of the 1998 car and that the engine the team will use is already known to them. "We made our decision on that six or seven weeks ago," said Barnard, "but it is up to Tom to make a statement on that." This was strange as Walkinshaw himself told pressmen at Magny-Cours two weeks ago that it was far too early to talk about engine deals as everything was still up in the air.
Tom and his staff are very keen on putting out confusing smoke screens and they have done well this year. Speculation at Silverstone suggested that Tom has been forced to build his own engines and that these will be paid for by Yamaha, which ends its five-year deal with John Judd at the end of this season. This is possible but would be a major step for Walkinshaw at such an early point in his F1 program with Arrows. There was also talk that he has managed to secure a Mecachrome engine deal.
It is more likely that Walkinshaw has convinced bosses at Ford that the company should supply him with its new V10 engines in 1998 in order to force along the pace of Ford development, and at the same time give Ford the chance to have cars with both Goodyear and Bridgestone tires. Such speculation was doing the rounds in F1 about two months ago but several usually reliable sources indicated that this had been discounted. We have since learned that they were wrong and that Ford is indeed open to such proposals as Stewart has been struggling a little this year and the team will take at least a couple more seasons before it is truly competitive.
There have also been changes in the Ford top management since the company decided to support Jackie Stewart at the end of 1995. Jac Nasser was appointed head of automotive operations in October last year and he is tipped to become Ford's chairman when current incumbent Alex Trotman retires in the year 2000.
Nasser - who is known as Jac the Knife within the company because of his ruthless pursuit of improved performance - is not keen to wait around for F1 success.
There are some at Ford who believe that rivalry between factory teams is a good idea, citing the 1993 example when Benetton and McLaren both ran factory Ford V8 engines. Benetton, which was run at the time by Walkinshaw, was overshadowed by McLaren but the following year won the World Championship. Nasser and Walkinshaw have had disagreements in the past over Ford business but our sources say that pragmatism has won the day and that there have been discussions.
If Tom does not have a deal with Ford, it is hard to imagine how he will find a supply of competitive engines as all the obvious companies have effectively made their positions quite clear.
|Print News Story|