MAY 22, 2000
Whitaker in demand?
MARTIN WHITAKER, who was in charge of Ford's F1 plans until the end of last year, appears to be in the process of trying to get back into Formula 1 having spent the last few months in charge of the Ford World Rally Championship program. Whitaker appeared in the paddock at the European Grand Prix amid rumors that he has been offered the job as sporting director at Benetton. At the same time the Ford Motor Company appears to be considering whether or not Martin should be used to help Neil Ressler run the Jaguar Racing operation, which is in serious need of management at the moment.
Whitaker would appear to be an unlikely front man for the Benetton team, which will become a factory Renault team in January 2002. While he has all the necessary connections to play the political role on Renault's behalf, he has never been a great linguist and it is hard to imagine that the French will want to be represented by someone who does not speak French. At the same time it makes a great deal of sense for Whitaker to be with Jaguar as he fits the clean-cut English image that Jaguar is trying to exploit as it tries to sell more Jaguars.
One way or another it is very likely that Whitaker will be back soon in F1.
In the meantime, Ford chief executive Jac Nasser and Jaguar boss Wolfgang Reitzle are still trying to decide where the new Jaguar Racing headquarters is going to be located. The current trend seems to be towards a site at Silverstone but the two men were at Gaydon proving ground last week to see how best that could be used by Ford. Gaydon would be a perfect location for a Formula 1 team as it has its own test track and vehicle testing laboratories. It is well-located and protected by high-security which means that the team could test without having to worry about being seen.
At the same time, Gaydon may be more useful to Ford in other areas and while the F1 program is important, there are other priorities which need to be taken into account.
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