The search for manufacturer engines

It is not a secret that teams in Formula 1 without manufacturer backing are at a massive disadvantage. The best that the private teams can hope for these days is a secondary factory supply, such as the arrangement which is enjoyed by Sauber with Ferrari and will be seen next year with Jordan and Toyota. Sauber, Red Bull Racing, Jordan and Minardi are all going to be on the lookout for a manufacturer engine of one form or another. One way this might be achieved is if a new manufacturer funded Cosworth to build F1 engines. This kind of "arms-length" deal could work out if the price of an involvement in F1 reduces as it is hoped will happen with the new engine regulations.

The car companies which are not involved in F1 and perhaps might wish to be are General Motors, Volkswagen, Peugeot-Citroen, Hyundai, Suzuki and Porsche. There are others but they are probably too small to be able to compete effectively. GM and Peugeot seem intent on low-cost attacks on the World Touring Car Championship while Suzuki is said to be keen on the World Rally Championship. The obvious target for Sauber and Red Bull Racing is therefore going to be Volkswagen although Peter Sauber might aim to one day try to sell his team to BMW.

Hyundai has been sniffing around F1 for some time but has made no moves while Porsche is making too much money to need to advertise its products. Volkswagen has recently decided to strengthen its motorsport involvement and on November 1 established a company called Volkswagen Motorsport GmbH, which combines the various activities of Volkswagen in competition. The new body is to be headed by Denmark's Kris Nissen, who will report to board member Prof. Dr. Wilfried Bockelmann.

Nissen, a former racer who had aspirations of F1 and tested a Zakspeed F1 car in the late 1980s, later had a terrible fiery accident in a sports car race in Japan but came back from that to be a frontrunner in the DTM and in 1994 was even given a Formula 1 test by Sauber. He has been responsible for the race and rally activities of VW since July 2003.

The main activity of Volkswagen Motorsport at the moment is raid rallying with the VW Touareg and the organization has just announced its team for the 2005 Dakar with three former winners Jutta Kleinschmidt, Juha Kankkunen and Bruno Saby being joined by NASCAR driver Robby Gordon

"With the formation of Volkswagen Motorsport GmbH and the corresponding new structure, we have created an excellent base from which to compete in motorsport at the highest level in an objective, professional and successful way," Nissen said when the programme was launched.

It is no secret that VW's boss Bernd Pischetsrieder is a great fan of F1, having been behind the decision to get BMW into the sport when he was with the Munich car maker but he has been concentrating in recent years on getting some of VW's marques sorted out. He has often said that reviving the Bugatti name is VW's project equivalent to F1 at the moment. That job is now reaching its conclusion with the much-delayed Bugatti Veyron super car finally getting close to production and Thomas Bscher, an investment banker who enjoyed a very successful career in sports car racing in the 1990s, now looking ahead to new models which will be aimed at the Ferrari market.

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