OCTOBER 16, 2000

BAR and Honda

WE suggested as long ago as April that the Honda Motor Company was looking to buy into British American Racing.

WE suggested as long ago as April that the Honda Motor Company was looking to buy into British American Racing. This was denied by Honda at the time although BAR made no comment. In recent days similar stories have appeared in other racing magazines and this time BAR has responded by issuing a denial. The team has also denied stories that members of the BAR management are conspiring to oust the team's chief executive Craig Pollock.

The difference is that circumstances have changed somewhat in recent months and the current stories may have been planted to disrupt negotiations taking place. There has never been much doubt that Honda's long-term goal is to have a team of its own in F1. The company has always harbored that dream and has been worried by the success achieved this year by BMW and by the fact that both Renault and Toyota are entering F1 with their own teams in 2002. Honda needs to be in F1 to meet those challenges head-on. Thus negotiations between Honda and BAT should not be a surprise. If a deal was to happen it would mean that Honda would take over all technical aspects of the team and that would mean that Reynard's involvement would come to an end. It is therefore not impossible that Adrian Reynard might wish to get control of the team before a Honda takeover so that he will be able to make money when the team is sold.

Taking over the company is impossible as long as Craig Pollock has the support of British American Tobacco. BAT is BAR's biggest shareholder with 50% while Reynard holds only 15% of the shares although he has considerable influence as it was he who convinced Honda to supply the team with engines (admittedly, in exchange for a large amount of BAT money). This was done thanks to his connections with powerful members of the Honda management, notably Koichi Amemiya, the President of American Honda, and Deputy President of the whole Honda company.

Before Reynard organized the BAR deal, Honda had planned its own team, which was to be called HondaÊRacingÊDevelopments. This was the brainchild of Honda Research & Development but was opposed within the company by the Motor Sport Department (which wanted to be in charge) and Hirotoshi Honda (a big shareholder in the company who runs the Mugen company). Reynard allied with them.

The political in-fighting that destroyed the HRD team has revived now that BAR is working closely with Honda R&D. The relationship is developing with Honda engineers having recently built their first chassis to a BAR design. The Japanese are also working hard on a variety of systems for 2001 with its Athena testing program, which is being run independently from the BAR test team. Everything is building up towards a neat and tidy takeover of the team by Honda but it seems that there are once again two factions but this time they are fighting over the team rather than the engines. It does not help matters that Honda has agreed to supply both BAR and Jordan.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the whole sorry business is that one of the names linked to a management buyout is that of Barry Green, who is supposed to be BAT's nominee to replace Pollock. Perhaps the revelation (real or otherwise) that Green is involved with Reynard will alter the perception of Green within the BAT empire.

When all of this is boiled down to reality, the team is never going to get anywhere in F1 until the in-fighting within BAR and within Honda stop. A divided team is never successful in F1.