JULY 13, 1998
Benetton and Ford
WE believe that Ford's purchase of Cosworth is just the first step towards a much more serious involvement in Formula 1 racing - as we predicted in May - and we believe that the company will forge a partnership with Benetton in the year 2000 which will see the Italian team running cars in Ford factory colors.
Last weekend Benetton announced that it will be using Supertec V10s in 1999 and 2000 but we believe that the second year of the deal was forced upon the team and, not having an engine for the 1999 season, there was little choice but to accept the extra year and try to negotiate its way out of the deal at a later date.
In addition we expect to see Benetton boss David Richards looking after Ford's touring car and possibly even its rallying program as well, using his Prodrive company and, probably, a new Benetton subsidiary. Prodrive is unable to run Ford's rally team because it already has a deal with Subaru for the World Rally Championship in 1999, 2000 and 2001 but there is no reason why Benetton should not establish a touring car operation as well with all three teams running in similar color schemes to maximum the impact of the Ford branding.
The interesting question if these deals come to fruition is what will happen to Ford's current works operation StewartÊGrandÊPrix. The Milton-Keynes team signed a five-year deal with Ford at the start of 1996 which means that Stewart ought to be running the engines until the end of 2000. Ford will not want to be seen to ditch Stewart which means that it will either have to buy the team or find Stewart a better alternative. There is a possibility that Cosworth could supply two sets of engines with one badged as Fords and the other as a Ford subsidiary marque such as Aston Martin or Jaguar. Either one would be good for Stewart as both are famous motor racing names in Britain.