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Piech denies F1 plans

VOLKSWAGEN boss Ferdinand Piech has denied speculation that Europe's biggest carmaker is planning to enter Grand╩Prix╩racing with its Audi brand. There have been rumors of an Audi F1 program for some years. According to Piech, however, the cost of F1 is "disproportionately big" and he compared it to the launch of "a completely new line of models." Piech said that Audi was aiming for victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, a program which involves far less financing.

But Mercedes-Benz boss Jurgen Hubbert told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper last week that he felt that Audi's Le Mans car was "the preliminary step towards F1". This would not be surprising as in the past Mercedes and Peugeot have both used the sportscar route as a way to get ready for an entry into F1 and there is little doubt that Toyota is in the process of doing the same.

Hubbert said that in his opinion Porsche was going to have make a decision soon about F1 as well. Hubbert confirmed that Mercedes-Benz will be staying in the sport until 2002 as the firm has a contract with McLaren until then and has no intention of leaving before taking on BMW. He added, however, that Mercedes-Benz is not necessarily involved in Grand Prix racing as a "lifelong engagement" and that after 2002 anything could happen.

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