Lauda flying not-so-high

NIKI LAUDA is due to take over a new position as honorary editor of Bernie Ecclestone's planned new F1 racing magazine - due to start publication next February in advance of the 2001 F1 season - at a salary reputed to be around $100,000.

He might find himself needing the money from his new role in fronting what many F1 teams are regarding suspiciously as Grand Prix racing's new "school magazine." This week it became clear that his airline Lauda Air was fighting for its commercial life in the face of crippling losses which threaten to send it into bankruptcy.

This week Lauda had his hands full pushing through a rescue package for his beleaguered airline, in the face of opposition from its 36 per cent shareholder and partner Austrian Airlines, which was challenging his strategy over how to keep the airline afloat.

The triple World Champion, who flies regularly as a captain in his airline's Boeing 767s and 777s, recommended a plan to free up hidden airline reserves of about 46.2 million pounds by a sale-and-leaseback deal on five aircraft, including two of his 777s which have a price tag of around 94 million pounds apiece.

Austrian Airlines, however, feel that Lauda's plans will not produce sufficient cash to save the airline which is feeling the pressure of the recent big rise in fuel prices and a stronger dollar.

Lauda won the 1976 and 77 World Championships for Ferrari and later added a third title in 1984 at the wheel of a McLaren.

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