Honda website
Honda website

OCTOBER 13, 1997

Nissan versus Yamaha

THE most surprising aspect of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend was Yamaha's failure to announce that it will be continuing in Grand Prix racing next year with Tom Walkinshaw's Arrows team. The deal which has been whispered for some time would feature a completely new V10 engine, designed and built for Arrows by Brian Hart. This would be paid for by Yamaha and developed by TWR Engines at Leafield, under Geoff Goddard.

Yamaha seems keen to continue in F1 and is apparently willing to pay. It seems, however, that Tom Walkinshaw is in the process of negotiating with at least one - and maybe more - manufacturers which might be interested in badging a HartÊV10. The more money he gets, the more competitive the engine is going to be. Rather than being in trouble because everyone has an engine deal and Tom is left out in the cold he now seems to have the market pretty much to himself, although Benetton's new boss David Richards is trying to pin down an engine-badging deal for the Mecachrome engines he will be using next season. We believe that Richards and Walkinshaw are both working at convincing the giant Japanese car company Nissan to enter Grand Prix racing. There have been vague rumors of talks since June when Walkinshaw was said to be suggesting that Nissan buy a supply of Renault V10 engines in a deal similar to that between Sauber Petronas and Ferrari. There are problems in that Frank Williams has a contract restricting Mecachrome to two supplies of engines, but if a supply of 1996 engines could be sold and developed by TWR Engines and Brian Hart, the deal would make a lot of sense for Nissan.

The world's fourth largest car manufacturer (behind General Motors, Toyota and Ford) Nissan has had a difficult time in recent years because of the need for cost-cutting, plant closures and an increase in overseas production. This is now completed and Nissan is looking to expand its sales into new markets, particularly into Europe. The company is already involved in British Touring Car racing with its Primera model, but also has a deal with TWR in sportscar racing. The TWR-built Nissan R390 sportscars raced at Le Mans this year and the deal is intended to continue for the next five years.

Richards is also well-connected at Nissan, which owns Fuji Heavy Industries, the parent company of Subaru with which Richards's Prodrive company has a very successful World Rally Championship program.