APRIL 14, 1997
Walkinshaw, Barnard and Honda
WHEN it was first suggested that Tom Walkinshaw was in the process of trying to do a deal with Ferrari designer John Barnard, Tom did his best to play down the stories, saying that vague talks had been taking place but that nothing was finalized.
Last week The Sun newspaper in London received a mystery fax of the contract between Barnard and Walkinshaw, which indicates that Barnard has agreed to buy his Ferrari Design & Development facility in Shalford from Ferrari for $1.2m but will sell it on to Walkinshaw for $2.6m and that Barnard himself will become a TWR employee at the bargain basement rate of $500,000 a year for three years - with an option to continue for a further two years if everything goes well. In addition Barnard will have first class travel to wherever he wants to go in the world - a normal incentive in F1 contracts these days.
According to the documents which were delivered to The Sun, Barnard will be responsible for all mechanical and aerodynamic design and will be given a monthly budget of $500,000 to design and build the 1998 car. Once that is done FDD will be closed down and all the equipment and personnel will be relocated to TWR headquarters at Leafield.
The alleged contract - which Walkinshaw says does not exist because he has no deal with Barnard - includes a variety of confidentiality clauses and an indication that TWR Arrows is a long way down the line in doing a deal with Honda to replace the erratic Yamaha V10 engines which the team is using this year.
It is no secret that last year Walkinshaw tried very hard to get a deal to run the Mugen Honda engines - which are now being used by Prost Grand Prix - but his bid was foiled by Flavio Briatore, who owned Prost (then called Ligier) at the time. As a result Walkinshaw had to do a last-minute deal with Yamaha although he continued to negotiate with Mugen and Honda, in the hope that he would be able to convince the Japanese to come back to F1 in 1998, the 50th anniversary of the company being founded. As long ago as December 1995 Honda admitted that it was considering a return to F1, but Honda's President has recently dampened down the rumors, saying that Honda will not be back next year.
The Mugen engine supply for 1998 is currently being fought over by Benetton - which has yet to decide whether it wants to go with the Japanese engines or with the much more expensive Mecachrome (nee Renault) V10s - Arrows and Tyrrell.
Although Walkinshaw denies a deal with Barnard, FDD is already losing staff who do not want to be relocated from Surrey to Oxfordshire. Two of Barnard's bright young designers James Blake and Adrian Moore have already decided to move on and are joining McLaren, while Barnard's composite production chief Pete Brown has decided that he wants to stay with Ferrari and has been transferred to Maranello.
In Argentina we heard suggestions that other members of Barnard's team have been talking to other teams.