NOVEMBER 23, 1998

Ford denies Stewart-Jaguar rumors

THE Ford Motor Company has denied that it is in the process of trying to buy Stewart Grand Prix with the intention of turning the team into a Jaguar F1 team in the year 2001.

THE Ford Motor Company has denied that it is in the process of trying to buy Stewart Grand Prix with the intention of turning the team into a Jaguar F1 team in the year 2001. The rumors - run with unusual confidence by newspapers and magazines in Europe - clearly emanate from very good sources high up within the Ford Motor Company.

There is no doubt that Ford is not happy with the way things have developed with Stewart and it is hard to imagine - no matter what Ford spokesmen say - that the company can allow things to continue as they are. The new chief executive JacÊNasser made his name within the Ford empire by demanding success and getting rid of those who do not achieve it, gaining the nickname "Jack the Knife". At the very least we would expect a change of management at Stewart to allow DavidÊRichards - the man Ford bosses want in charge of their F1 program - to be part of the team.

The idea of running Jaguar engines has been investigated by the company when it was trying to work out a deal for Benetton to use its V10 engines in 1999. Last week's denial did not say that Jaguar would not be in F1 in the future. Such a move would make a huge amount of sense for Jaguar which has just launched its S Class, the first mid-sized luxury car to be built by the firm for 30 years. Ford hopes that this will double Jaguars sales. On top of that there are plans for the X400Ê"BabyÊJag" to be launched in the year 2001 and Ford is aiming for this car to double Jaguars sales again.

The lower end of the luxury car markets are, however, becoming increasingly crowded these days with Mercedes and BMW expanding sales and Volkswagen planning to build Baby Bentleys. In order to market the cars successfully a Formula 1 program - against BMW and Mercedes - might be a good idea.

Joining Stewart, however, may not be the best idea for Jaguar. It makes much more sense for the company to cash in on its highly-successful history in racing with Tom Walkinshaw and revive the Silk Cut Jaguar brand of the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the cars running in the familiar purple, white and gold colors. This is such a well-established color scheme that the fact that the name Silk Cut would have to be left off in some countries would not be that important. This is all speculation at the moment but what is fact is that Tom Walkinshaw has been in constant contact with Ford's Neil Ressler in recent weeks and something is clearly in the pipeline.

While Ford may not be able to rebadge its V10 as a Jaguar because of its exclusive agreement with Stewart there is nothing to stop Jaguar badging Walkinshaw's Arrows V10 and switching Ford F1 engineers onto the project. This could be done immediately and would bolster, rather than replace, Ford's F1 involvement. Ford could then push ahead with its plans to turn Stewart into an all-Ford operation under Richards.

Failing to win has often prompted car manufacturers to extend their engine supplies to other teams. In the 1980s this was done by both Renault (which supplied Lotus in addition to its own factory Renault Sport team) and BMW (which gave the engines to ATS, Arrows and then Benetton in addition to works team Brabham).

It would also be a very good move politically as F1 bosses are always trying to get engine manufacturers to supply more than one team.