MAY 7, 2001

Gustav Brunner moves to Toyota

THE announcement from Cologne that Gustav Brunner is moving to Toyota Motorsport is good news for the team.

THE announcement from Cologne that Gustav Brunner is moving to Toyota Motorsport is good news for the team. Brunner knows what he is doing. This has proved in recent years at Minardi although Brunner's designs have, over the years, helped out ATS, RAM, Rial, Leyton House and Minardi. His time at Zakspeed was not a huge success but his two stints at Ferrari were both quite successful, although he was never in the top job at Maranello.

He has been with Minardi since February 1998 and has been very happy there, running his own operation and producing a series of neat and quite effective cars, although all of them have suffered from not having decent engines behind them.

The recruitment of Brunner is perhaps much more significant than it appears because it suggests that Toyota has finally recognized that it was going nowhere with the old regime. Brunner will go into Cologne and make it work. If it is true that Toyota is working with Mecachrome - which appears to be the case - the recruit of Brunner is a sign that the package will not be as embarrassing as original thought.

This is great news because Formula 1 does not Toyota to be embarrassed. It has taken a long time to drum the idea into the heads in Cologne but it seems that the message has now got through. With a Mecachrome-influenced engine, a Brunner chassis and a decent budget the team should start out halfway up the grid. Mika Salo and Allan McNish are sensible drivers so the package will be a good place to start.

Brunner will fit neatly in at Cologne. He is an Austrian but he has lived in Germany before. The fact that he has left Minardi would seem to suggest that the financial incentive to move was massive. Brunner admits that leaving Minardi has caused him "a little pain" but says that it is "an opportunity not to be missed".

What will be interesting is the effect that Brunner's departure will have on Minardi. The long-term plan is for the drawing office to be moved to European headquarters in Ledbury. One of the major reasons for keeping the Faenza operation open for a number of years was the fact that Brunner was in Faenza. Now he is gone there is less reason to continue there. Stoddart will have to decide what to do about the technical direction of the team. It is more a question of man-management than of actual designing skill. Stoddart is lucky in that he has an experienced and effective bunch of designers in Italy under the control of chief designer George Ryton. Ryton has plenty of experience in F1 which dates back to the Haas team in the mid-1980s and for several years he was number two to John Barnard at Ferrari. He has had his turn at being technical director with EuroBrun, Tyrrell and Forti and now seems to be happy enough as a chief designer.

Ryton is another man who likes the Italian lifestyle but he too will move back to England if the job being offered is interesting enough. Stoddart's main priority will probably, therefore, be to hire a group of young design engineers to work in Ledbury and to look either to Ryton or to another technical director to fill Brunner's shoes.

There are one or two engineers knocking around who might for the bill: Alan Jenkins and Sergio Rinland are two obvious candidates but it is also possible that Stoddart will look to the younger generation of technical managers. Stoddart has a very good idea of the engineers available as he has been involved in a variety of different teams in recent years as a sponsor: notably with Tyrrell, Jordan and Arrows.

One man who may find himself with an offer is Arrows technical director Mike Coughlan. At 43 Coughlan is the most experienced technical manager of the young generation. He has been active in F1 since 1984 when he joined the technical team at Lotus. He was then associated with John Barnard for several years and was chief designer of the Benetton B191, the forerunner of the successful Benettons between 1992 and 1995. After Barnard's team at Benetton broke up Coughlan moved to Tyrrell where he worked with Ryton until 1993 when he rejoined Barnard at Ferrari. Coughlan followed Barnard to Arrows a couple of years ago now has only a year to run on his Arrows contract so he must be considered as a likely target for Stoddart.