OCTOBER 21, 2006
Prodrive rumours and speculation
There has been an awful lot of silence from Prodrive in recent weeks with no visible signs of any progress being made in building up the F1 team that is planned for 2008. The team hopes to be testing next year but for the moment there have been no deals announced for chassis or engines. The team is hoping to do a deal to buy a chassis from an existing F1 team and pick up an engine deal either from the same team or from another operation. The long-term aim remains to build a Prodrive car in the mid-term and one of the reasons that teams seem reluctant to do deals is that they know that selling a chassis to Prodrive will help the team to shortcut the learning process. The only whispers that have been doing the rounds are that former Honda F1 man Geoff Willis is likely to join Prodrive as its technical director.
Prodrive's David Richards is an ambition thinker and will want to wow the F1 world as and when he does make an announcement and in the light of that one should consider a rumour doing the rounds in financial circles suggesting that European billionaires Bernard Arnault and Albert Frere are considering working together to make a bid for Aston Martin, the British luxury sports carmaker that has been put up for sale by Ford.
Arnault is the man who runs the Paris-based luxury goods company LVMH, while Frere is a major player in the financial world, owning stakes in TotalFinaElf and a variety of banks. The two have announced that they are forming an alliance and are looking at things to invest in and Aston Martin is believed to be on their list. This would fit in with the brand image of LVMH.
The interesting point in all of this is that Prodrive is Aston Martin's partner in competition activities with the DBR9 sports car currently being raced with success by Aston Martin Racing, a Prodrive team. This would be a brilliant brand for Richards to bring into F1 and would follow the pattern set back in the 1950s by Sir David Brown who took Aston Martin to great success in sports car racing before launching the team into F1.
This is largely speculative but one can imagine that this would be the kind of concept that Richards would be looking at as he will be keen to use his F1 programme to make money and part of the current Aston Martin deal with Ford is that Prodrive builds high-performance versions of the Aston Martins.
One other point worth throwing into the mix is that Arnault knows about F1. In 1999 he invested in Prost Grand Prix, with the plan to use the racing team to sell Prost-branded luxury products for worldwide distribution.
It is also worth noting that LVMH is constantly keeping an eye on F1 activities with representatives regularly showing up at events such as the Motor Sport Business Forum.
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