Volkswagen denies Formula 1 ambitions

KLAUS VOLKERT, the head of Volkswagen Group's human resources, has spoken out against the mooted interest in Formula 1 stirred up by the appointment of Bernd Pietchsrieder to the head of the German giant.

Former BMW man Pischetsrieder joined VW after leaving BMW, at which he had been involved in both its 1980s turbo engine program and the founding of the Munich marque's current engine as supplied to Williams. He is a big proponent of the value of sporting success to the motor trade and a well known enthusiast for much of the industry's heritage.

Volkert's reaction is being read as that of the old guard at VW under Ferdinand Piech, whose disinterest in motor sport - and success of the VW group of companies - has permeated throughout the board.

Volkswagen owns Audi, SEAT, Skoda, Bentley and Bugatti. All have motor sport programs of some form or other either in effect or in the planning stages, but largely they are the responsibility of the national importer of whichever VW brand is competing.

One-make race and rally championships are the mainstay, although national championships are also taken on by those importers who feel capable of supporting the budget. This has seen Audi generate huge success in touring cars in Europe, Australia and Africa as well as in IMSA racing in the USA after it ended its world rally championship campaign in 1986. VW, Skoda and SEAT also competed against each other in the British Rally Championship during the mid-1990s.

Currently VW's main programs are Audi's sports car entry in the American and European Le Mans Series', and the closely-related Bentley Le Mans program aimed at recapturing the 24 Hour endurance classic. Skoda - in which VW is a major shareholder - has a long history in rallying and currently contests the World Rally Championship through the Czech factory whilst SEAT is likely to enter the European Touring Car Championship.

Pischetsrieder was announced as the man to succeed Piech at the Frankfurt Motor Show on September 11, taking over from early next year, and was immediately asked about plans for F1 - which he did not turn down flat. Evidently this has raised a few hackles at Wolfsburg and Volkert has spoken out.

"Mr. Pischetsrieder likes to go to fishing," he said. "Nobody suggested that we launch out into the fish breeding industry." Volkert, who sits on VW's board of trustees, is known to feel that the motor manufacturing industry is in too much potential danger to invest in a costly F1 program. He did however confirm that Volkswagen has an investment budget in the region of $30 million until 2005, and the direction of spending is yet to be decided.

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