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BAR and Mecachrome

THE rumors about British American Racing and Mecachrome refuse to go away and new stories from Japan now indicate that Honda will not be in a position to supply the new team with engines in 1999. It may be that the team will get the Japanese power units in the year 2000 and may be trying to negotiate a second supply of Mugen Hondas for next year.

But at the moment the engine which will be seen in the back of the first Reynard F1 car, to be run by BAR, will be powered by Mecachrome, the supply becoming available because of Benetton's expected switch to Ford engines. BAR is hoping to be able to badge the engine but this is unlikely to be successful as Renault is unlikely to agree to a rival car manufacturer gaining from its investment and Williams was unable to find anyone to badge the unit this year. Benetton called its engines Playlife V10s but this is only because Playlife is a Benetton company.

We hear that there is still some doubt as to whether BAR will get the Mecachrome deal as Sauber is also a candidate. Whatever the case, it looks likely that BAR will be entering F1 with a package which will be much weaker than the team has been promising and that situation flies in the face of Adrian Reynard's stated philosophy of not entering F1 unless he had engines from a major manufacturer. We have heard that BAR is very keen to convince Renault to take over the engine again but the French manufacturer cannot really afford to make an F1 comeback as there are still many economic problems to be sorted out by the company and an F1 project will not fit in with the need to make job cuts within the overstaffed company. There is also little marketing logic in the idea as Renault pulled out because it had been too successful and to adopt the role of engine manufacturer again makes no sense. If Renault is going to come back within the next five years we expect the French to follow Honda's lead and build its own chassis as well.

The advantage of the Mecachrome is that it is a reliable unit but by the start of next season it will be getting very old and development is not keeping pace with that of Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari. The conclusion that is emerging is that the BAR team management has been creating the image of a more competitive package than will be the case in reality.

Having said that BAR has shown some talent in the past at manipulating the media by encouraging speculation on the basis that any publicity is good publicity. It could be all the Mecachrome rumors are yet another smokescreen. Time will tell.

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