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Minardi sale close

NEGOTIATIONS for the sale of Minardi to a European consortium are, we believe, in the final stages with the little Italian team likely to be sold within a matter of weeks. The buyers are believed to be intending to leave the team running as it is for the time being but there will be changes in the longer-term, probably with a new factory being set up in Britain. Giancarlo Minardi may, however, be retained to help to run the team. Telefonica, which had been negotiating a deal to buy the team, appears to have lost interest and will continue as the team's title sponsor.

The details of the consortium are sketchy but we believe that it is led by Mark Muller, the marketing boss of the ISL software company. The price is expected to be in the region of $65m.

In order to make the team a competitive operation, there will need to be many changes with the most important issue being an engine deal. Minardi currently uses old Ford V10 engines from 1998 but this is proving to be a big disadvantage, although the new Minardi chassis appears to be a very good chassis. The problem of engine supply is expected to be solved with some form of deal with Supertec next year. This will be a lot more expensive than the current arrangement but should enable the team to produce better results which in turn will generate more sponsorship.

The consortium appears to believe that using the Minardi name is a good idea as it is one of the strongest brand names in F1, Minardi having attracted a very large following because of its status as the underdogs of the sport.

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