DECEMBER 14, 1998
Has Takagi signed for Arrows?
THERE are rumors in Germany that the deal between Zakspeed and Arrows has now been completed for around $40m and that Japanese driver Tora Takagi has been signed to drive alongside Mika Salo thanks to a sponsorship package worth $9m. The stories in Germany suggest that the deals will be announced within the next 10 days.
Despite all the rumors Tom Walkinshaw recently told the team's employees that the operation is not for sale. It is not recorded whether or not the Scotsman was laughed out of the room when he made these remarks. There are three possible explanations as to why Walkinshaw would make such a comment: he may be working to form some kind of partnership with Zakspeed which would not amount to a sale; he might be selling the Arrows franchise but planning to hold on to the team and buy another franchise; or he might simply not be telling the truth in an effort to keep up flagging morale at Leafield. This is unlikely as by doing so Tom would undermine his credibility with the Arrows staff. The idea of working with Zakspeed is possible, perhaps with the provision that the team ownership will eventually move to the Germans. Tom did similar deals when he bought into Benetton and Ligier and his agreement to buy Arrows from Jackie Oliver and his partners is also believed to have been spread over a number of years.
There are all kinds of rumors in Europe about the Arrows V10 engines being differently badged after the Zakspeed deal is completed - notably suggestions that they could carry the Yamaha name. This is quite possible as Yamaha still wants to be involved in F1 and is willing to pay some money to be involved. Walkinshaw was going to run Yamaha engines this year but could not agree on a deal and so called his Hart V10 engines Arrows instead of Yamaha.
There has been speculation around Europe that this may tie in with Toyota's planned entry into F1 in the year 2001 or 2002. Toyota and Yamaha enjoy close links in the development of sporting engines, dating back to the 1960s, but our sources at Toyota say that there is no strategic plan formulated at the moment and that a decision will not be made for some weeks. It could be that Zakspeed is anticipating that Toyota will enter F1 and is taking the risk of positioning itself so as to be an obvious partner for the giant Japanese carmaker when the decision comes.
It may be more simple than that. If Yamaha is offering some money to be in F1 it is logical for Zakspeed to take advantage of it. Something is better than nothing...