SEPTEMBER 30, 1996
General Motors and F1...
THE International Touring Car Championship is to be canceled at the end of the season - and that could be important for Formula 1 engine supply in 1998 and beyond, as it could mean that General Motors will turn its attention to F1 instead.
The ITC series allowed most forms of high technology and budgets for the manufacturers involved were enormous, rumored to be the region of $80m a year for each of the three manufacturers involved: Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo and Opel.
Mercedes-Benz is already involved in F1 but some of the ITC money is sure to find its way into the engine development with Ilmor.
Alfa Romeo is not likely to return to F1. It was involved with a factory engine supply between 1979 and 1985 - initially with Autodelta and later Euroracing. The company won nothing. Since Fiat bought Alfa Romeo in 1986 it has adhered to the policy of having Ferrari in F1; Lancia in rallying and Alfa Romeo in touring car racing.
Adam Opel AG, the German unit of General Motors, may decide to take GM into F1 racing. Opel motor sports programs are run by German Peter Flohr, who ran BMW's F1 program in the early 1980s and quit the Munich company in 1988 when it decided against returning to F1.
General Motors came very close to committing itself to F1 in 1988 with a V12 engine for which Ilmor carried out a design study. The program was turned down for economic reasons but the company's chief executive at the time - Bob Eaton - went on to push Chrysler into F1 in the early 1990s.