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BMW to confirm F1 program

THE German car manufacturer BMW is to announce a long-term motor racing involvement with Williams at the Frankfurt Motor Show in the week following the Italian Grand Prix. There have been rumors of a Williams-BMW link for some months but the company has been denying - as recently as the Hungarian GP - that any decision has been taken.

The program is believed to include an initial two-year deal in GT racing with Williams building sportscars for the Munich company. Engine testing of a completely new V10 engine will begin in 1998 and there is likely to be an intensive track testing program during 1999 prior to BMW's official return to F1 at the start of 2000.

BMW has not been involved in F1 since it left at the end of 1987 when economic problems forced the company to restructure. The interest in F1 survived however and in 1990 BMW commissioned a car to be designed by Simtek. This was later canceled but BMW bosses have since made regular studies of a return to F1. Two years ago a plan to come back was delayed because the company felt it needed to invest in rebuilding the Rover Group and expanding the BMW market in the United States.

The return to F1 is no real surprise for the ambitious young BMW management under Bernd Pischetsrieder. The company's success in the world's car markets has reached a point at which it now needs to break out of traditional markets and expand into the new markets opening up in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Williams, incidentally, is expected to continue its involvement with Renault in the British Touring Car Championship for a couple more years and we hear that a deal to that effect has already been signed.

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