OCTOBER 5, 1998
Tobacco, Tom and Takagi
AS Tom Walkinshaw tries to wheel and deal himself to a major sponsorship deal with British American Tobacco we hear that one of the men who is closest to the top of his list of drivers for next year is Toranosuke Takagi. Takagi has proved himself to be quite competitive in the Tyrrell this year although it is hard to say exactly how good he is as Ricardo Rosset has not really been very much of a yardstick. What is clear is that Takagi is available and is looking for work. It is widely assumed that Takagi will be part of the Honda Formula 1 team in the year 2000 but this is by no means certain.
Takagi has considerable financial backing - largely from PIAA - but this seems to be dependent on whether or not the Japanese car accessory company is given major space on the car. Joining Walkinshaw would also be a break from Mild Seven, which is produced by Japan Tobacco, BAT's major rival in Japan.
Walkinshaw recently admitted that he has a long list of possible partners for Mika Salo. The choice of second driver may not, of course, depend on marketing because Tom wants the fastest men available. However it would do no harm for him to have a South American as there is no doubt that he is intent on signing up a major deal with British American Tobacco, which needs another team if it is to carry through its plans in Grand Prix racing.
British American Racing was to run two cars in different liveries with Jacques Villeneuve in a Lucky Strike car and a South American driver in a State Express 555 car. This now cannot happen as the F1 Commission has voted to outlaw split sponsorships. This is unfortunate for BAR as half of its budget (the Lucky Strike 50%) was coming from BAT Ltd. and the other half (the State Express 555 part) from BAT subsidiary Souza Cruz SA. This company controls 83% of the Brazilian market with its Hollywood, Derby, Free and Carlton brands but still wants to expand and had planned to use the F1 program to launch State Express 555 into Brazil. This would also have been very helpful for BAT in Asia where 555 is a big brand.
Walkinshaw might land the 555 part of the deal from Souza Cruz if he can hold on to Pedro Diniz but this seems unlikely with Pedro seemingly bound for Sauber and what appears to be a more competitive drive in 1999. If that is the case Tom may go for Ricardo Zonta, who had been slated as a possible BAR driver.
The problem for BAR is that it must now find half of its original budget from another source. BAT may pay the money in order to have two Lucky Strike cars on the grid but the board may need a little more convincing.
It is interesting to note that BAR's press releases from its first test featured quotes from the driver, the test team manager and an engine man.
The usually high-profile Craig Pollock was not mentioned...
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