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A long-forgotten project

Formula 1 moves swiftly on from week to week and things fade quickly from the memory but this week Petronas reminded everyone in F1 that there is a value in using F1 technologies in the automobile industry. Petronas's partnership with Sauber was not merely an image and branding exercise for Malaysia's national oil corporation, but was designed to be a platform for the promotion of research and development and nurturing Malaysia's capabilities in automotive engineering. This led to the formation of a joint-venture called Sauber Petronas Engineering AG, which initially was going to design its own F1 engines. At the same time SPE, which was headed by former Honda F1 man Osamu Goto, began work on the design of production car engines for the Malaysian national car company Proton. The engine was known as the Petronas E01 and the first engines were completed in 1999 and were fitted in the official cars at the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix. The F1 engine programme was set aside after the Asian economic crisis of 1998.

Petronas has now signed a deal to licence some of its technology to Chinese car companies Nanjing Automobile Corporation and Brilliance which will see them building 1.8 to 2.2-litre versions of the engine for a variety of different cars.

SPE has also developed a high performance GP1 motorcycle engine which was unveiled in April 2001 and is raced by Foggy Petronas Racing in the World Superbike Championship.