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Honda to buy BAR?

FURTHER details are now beginning to emerge about the massive deal which has been struck between Honda and British╩American╩Tobacco for the supply of Formula 1 engines to British American Racing. Although BAR bosses are trying hard to convince everyone in the F1 paddock that no money is changing hands and that BAR will be the factory team there is no doubt that BAT is paying Honda $50m a year, although the deal will probably include BAT sponsorship of Honda's other motorsport activities, such the World 500cc Motorcycling Championship and touring car racing.

We also believe that the deal includes an option for Honda to buy BAT's 50% shareholding in BAR at some point in the future. This helps to explain Honda's sudden change of mind about going ahead with its planned Honda Racing Developments operation and provides a much more logical route for Honda to create the team they have always wanted in F1, with Honda producing the complete vehicle, including chassis, engine, transmission and electronics.

The BAR deal will enable Honda to drip-feed in its own engineers to learn how to build F1 chassis and if the team is not immediately successful it will not be Honda which is in the spotlight, As soon as BAR becomes a winning force, Honda will then take over the team.

There is no doubting the company's engine-building skills and we understand that the new V10 engine is going to be very much more advanced than many of the current engines, rumors suggesting that much of the recent testing work done by the engineers at HRD was with small radiators which would suggest that the new engine can run at much higher temperatures than its rivals. There are also suggestions that the new Honda engines could perhaps rev as high as 20,000rpm.

Although HRD has been doing the chassis development work up to now we understand that Honda Research and Development in Wako, Japan, had one of the four Dallara-built chassis for some months, in order to teach its chassis engineers the construction techniques employed. Honda chassis engineers soon will begin to appear in BAR uniform although the team says that there will not be very many people seconded from Japan. Honda has said that one of the stated aims of this project is to "nurture the capabilities of its engineers and develop advanced technologies, including those for chassis design and construction". Honda also say that the project will include "total machine development" which is expected to include electronics.

An option to buy BAR could work out well for both Honda and BAT. Tobacco legislation is becoming increasingly restricted around the world and the FIA could ban tobacco sponsorship in F1 as early as 2002 if it chose to do so. Turning the team into a Honda operation would enable BAT to recoup a lot of the money that it has invested in recent months in BAR, which would mean that all the advertising it has gained from F1 would be for free.

A gradual takeover of BAR by Honda would explain why BAR partner Adrian Reynard has been moving towards General╩Motors in recent months. Obviously there will be no role for Reynard in the long-term with an all Honda team.

Several other Formula 1 teams are believed to have similar option-to-buy arrangements with major manufacturers, our sources saying that McLaren and Mercedes are so linked and that a similar deal is probably in place between Williams╩and╩BMW.

These are not issues that the F1 team bosses wish to discuss in public.

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