OCTOBER 23, 1995
Chrysler looking at F1 again
At the time, Chrysler was involved in F1 through its Lamborghini Engineering offshoot which supplied V12 engines to the Larrousse team. The new Chrysler management - which took over in 1992 - was considering a massive F1 involvement and had talks with McLaren. Chrysler's chairman Bob Eaton met McLaren's Ron Dennis at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1993, and later that year Ayrton Senna tested a white McLaren-Lamborghini test car at Silverstone. At the last minute, however, Dennis decided to enter into McLaren's ill-fated alliance with Peugeot, which left Chrysler with no choice but to pull out of F1.
Eaton and Chrysler president Bob Lutz are both big motor sport fans and their vice-president (vehicle engineering) is Frenchman Francois Castaing, who headed the Renault Sport F1 team in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Castaing joined Chrysler when it acquired Renault's American Motors offshoot in 1987, and he is keen that the company's young engineers should experience the fast-moving F1 world.
In the early 1990s, the then chairman Lee Iaccoca commissioned a study of Honda's structure as a model for the future of Chrysler. It will not have gone unnoticed that Honda used F1 both as a marketing tool and a training ground for engineers. At the same time, Chrysler is in the process of expanding into Europe, and there is plenty of money available following record profits in recent years. This has led to problems for the company because corporate raider Kirk Kerkorian - who bought 9.8% of Chrysler in 1990 - has been trying to force the company to part with its $7.3 billion of cash. Earlier this year, Kerkorian tried unsuccessfully to finance a takeover of the company.
We hear that the management in Detroit is considering whether to invest in a small engine-making company - in much the same way as Mercedes-Benz has with Ilmor or Yamaha has with John Judd. The only likely candidate for such a deal would seem to be Brian Hart.