JUNE 28, 1999
Jenkins to Prost
ALAN JENKINS has been named as technical director of Prost Grand Prix. Having considered a deal from Benetton the British engineer decided to sign for the French team, renewing his relationship with Alain Prost which dates back to the early 1980s when Jenkins engineered Prost at McLaren. Jenkins replaces Bernard Dudot who is to take a new role within the team, "focussing on the future ".
The former Stewart Grand Prix technical director started work at Prost on the Tuesday before the French Grand Prix. He and his wife have already moved from England to an apartment close to the team factory in Versailles. Jenkins does not speak French but with the team having an increasing number of international engineers this is not expected to be a major problem. Loic Bigois remains the team's chief designer, while John Barnard will continue to work on new ideas at his B3 Technologies headquarters in England. The three engineers will work together on the design of the new AP03 chassis but Jenkins will have the final word if they do not agree.
Before joining the team Jenkins visited a large number of racing organizations around the world. He talked to Sauber and Benetton and, we hear, also discussed a sportscar project with the Ford Motor Company, the aim being to revive Ford's sportscar reputation established in the 1960s by the GT40. In the end, however, the 52-year-old Liverpudlian decided that he wanted to stay in Formula 1 and that Prost offered him the best opportunity. We believe that a deal with Benetton fell through because the Enstone team does not have a factory engine deal for the future.
Prost's engine situation is far from clear at the moment but all the indications are that the relationship with Peugeot will continue. The Magny-Cours paddock was alive with suggestions that Automobiles Peugeot may be trying to buy a large shareholding of the Prost team, although there were also rumors that Alain Prost is negotiating a partnership deal with one of France's best-known entrepreneurs Bernard Arnault, the managing-director of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy empire. The $7.5bn group owns a wide variety of luxury brands including Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon and Christian Dior. It is also involved in high technology businesses and in the construction business. An alliance with Prost would make a lot of sense for Arnault as it would be an opportunity to promote some of his brands while the shareholding would also bring long-term financial gain.
Officially Peugeot is saying that after meetings between its management and Alain Prost that a decision had been taken not to decide whether to continue the relationship when the current contract expires at the end of the 2000 season. Peugeot Sport will push head with its all-new A20 engine which ran for the first time on the dynos at Velizy last week but is not expected to be seen in a Prost chassis until December because of delays in the production of a new gearbox which has been designed and built by B3 Technologies.
The fact that Peugeot is funding the A20 suggests that the company will continue with Prost for at least another year or two as it makes little sense for the company to design a new engine for 2000 and then pull out at the end of the year. Despite approaches to various members of the Peugeot Sport staff from Toyota, the team at Velizy is unchanged. We understand that Toyota had been trying to hire both Peugeot Sport technical director Jean-Pierre Boudy and his head of development Jean-Francois Nicolino.