McLaren and Ilmor

THE latest whispers in Northamptonshire are that the TAG McLaren group is in the process of trying to buy into Ilmor Engineering, the engine-building company which designs and manufactures Mercedes-Benz F1 engines. Ilmor is currently owned by Mario Illien (25%), the Morgan Family (25%), Roger Penske (25%) and Mercedes-Benz (25%).

There have been rumors for some time that Penske was willing to sell his shares in the business as Ilmor is no longer involved in American racing. The death of Paul Morgan is a plane crash last summer may result in his shares becoming available which would in theory enable McLaren to buy control of the company. This would be a sensible course of action as Ilmor is at the cutting edge of F1 engine design and if in the future Mercedes-Benz decided to withdraw from motor racing, McLaren would then be in a position to offer the same services to another manufacturer. In the interim there is the potential for growth as Ilmor is currently not active in the US. The announcement that Honda is to withdraw from CART has opened up the possibility of an Ilmor expansion while IRL also remains an option.

It would not be the first time in the history of the sport that a racing team has moved into the engine business. Jack Brabham did it in the 1960s with Engine Developments (which now produces Judd engines) and McLaren also followed that route with McLaren Engines, started by the team in 1960s but now known as the McLaren Automotive Group Inc. and based in California. That company is currently involved in the development of the Cadillac Northstar engine for Le Mans 24 Hour program.

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