What does it all mean?

MARCH 15, 1999

What does it all mean?

THE fact that Cadillac is to enter a factory team in the Le Mans 24 Hours with a Riley & Scott-built sportscar and that RileyÊ&ÊScott is about to be bought by Reynard suggests that there may be more to the Cadillac announcement than meets the eye. General Motors - which owns Cadillac - may be the world's largest automobile maker but it has always been heavily dependent on the US market and has not bothered to try to make inroads into Europe, except using its European subsidiaries Vauxhall and Opel. The decision to mount a European program with Cadillac is, therefore, a significant policy switch for GM.

The interesting thing is that any motorsport marketeer will tell you that if you are aiming for the European market, the best way to draw attention to yourself if through Grand Prix racing. The Le Mans 24 Hours attracts some interest but it does not supply anything like the same kind of exposure as Formula 1 racing. As a result car manufacturers such as Peugeot and Mercedes-Benz have tended to use the Le Mans 24 Hours as a testing ground for their engineers before entering Grand Prix racing. Toyota is currently doing the same and it may be that Cadillac is thinking along similar lines. If that is the case, the move by Reynard to buy Riley & Scott is a significant one. Reynard is a partner in British American Racing. It provides the technical know-how for the F1 team. Judging by the performance in Australia, the BAR chassis is not a bad starting point. The problem facing the team is that the Supertec V10 engine is not up to the job of winning Grands Prix. The French V10s are not competitive in 1999 and are likely to be even less successful next season. BAR has expressed the hope of forming an alliance with Renault in F1 in the long-term but there is no guarantee that the French car company will be in a position to return to Grand Prix racing. It is currently involved in acquiring other companies in order to strengthen its position at a time when smaller car companies are being swallowed up. In the circumstances, finding the kind of money needed for F1 is going to be very difficult in the mid-term.

It has to be concluded, therefore, that British American Racing is on the lookout for an engine deal in the year 2001 and landing a deal with Cadillac would be a major marketing coup for the team.

There is considerable logic in General Motors entering Grand Prix racing. The car industry is becoming increasingly global and GM's chief rival, the Ford Motor Company, is now openly saying that it intends to overhaul GM as the world's biggest car company. The success of Mercedes-Benz has alerted the big car companies to the value of success in Grand Prix racing: Ford, Daimler-Chrysler (Mercedes), Fiat (Ferrari) and Peugeot are already involved; Toyota, Honda and BMW have announced F1 programs and there are hints that Volkswagen will follow with an Audi F1 program. It is not impossible, therefore, that by 2002 all the major car makers in the world - except GM - will be involved in Grand Prix racing.

And that is good reason to suggest that a GM Formula 1 project is quite likely and, logically, that would follow on from a Cadillac program at Le Mans...

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