NOVEMBER 1, 1999
High noon at BAR
AS we were closing for press a power struggle was taking place within British American Racing with Adrian Reynard trying to convince the shareholders of the team that Craig Pollock should be removed as chairman and that Reynard should replace him.
The fact that Reynard is mounting a coup d'etat suggests that he knows it will be successful and Pollock will be ousted. The danger is that if Pollock goes Jacques Villeneuve may also decide to bail out of the team.
For Reynard to be successful in his bid he needs to have enlisted the support of some of the British American Tobacco members of the BAR board. There are four BAT directors on the BAR board and each is understood to supply his own share of the budget so it is not impossible that they will vote independently of one another.
Reynard - who owns 15% of the team - undoubtedly has the support of engine-supplier Honda but as the Japanese car company does not currently have a shareholding in the team it will not be involved in any voting. It will, however, be an important background presence. CART team boss Jerry Forsythe who controls a part of the 35% of the team owned by an American company called Mount Eagle Inc. currently uses Honda engines in the United States and may want to keep that relationship sweet. At the same time he has said that he wants to increase his shareholding in the team and might see this as an opportunity to up Mount Eagle's shareholding to 50%.
Honda is known not to be happy about the current level of performance and there have been stories circulating in the F1 paddock which suggest that the team has to score some good results in the first three races of next year or face a situation where Honda could switch its main support behind Jordan Grand Prix.
Jacques Villeneuve has nailed his colors firmly to Pollock's mast and has even suggested in the past that he might quit the team if his mentor is ousted. Jacques could go off to CART in the United States.
One way or the other, provoking a showdown is probably a good idea for the team as it has long needed to get its management sorted out if it is going to make any realistic progress. Having various factions fighting one another has not helped progress this year.
Honda held a very low-key press conference in Tokyo in the week before the Japanese Grand Prix, unveiling the new V10 engine. This is due to begin testing in December. Honda is expected to send a number of chassis engineers to BAR in Brackley but is also likely to go on with the development program of the cars which were built for Honda Racing Developments by Dallara. This will keep up the pressure on the team.
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