MARCH 20, 1995

Tyrrell confirms Salo and Nokia

The Tyrrell Racing Organization has finally confirmed that Ukyo Katayama's partner this year will be Mika Salo, and that it has finalized a title sponsorship deal with Finnish telecommunications company Nokia. In addition, it has nominated Gabriele Tarquini as the team's official test and reserve driver.

The team will now be known as Nokia Tyrrell Yamaha, and the estimated $3 million which Nokia brings to Tyrrell will be a big boost for Tyrrell as it continues its efforts to re-establish itself as a front-running F1 outfit.

Nokia is a good catch for Tyrrell. It is the second largest manufacturer of cellular phones in the world and is Finland's largest private industrial company, employing 27,000 people in 36 countries. The negotiations, however, were not easy and broke down completely in mid-February when Nokia began talks with Pacific Team Lotus.

At that time Tyrrell and Pacific were in dispute over which of them had Mika Salo under contract. The 28-year-old Tokyo-based Finn did two races at the end of last year for Team Lotus and had a contract with the team for 1995. When it looked as though Lotus was out of business Salo began talks with Tyrrell and tested a Tyrrell-Yamaha 022 chassis at Jerez in January, greatly impressing the team with some quick lap times. When Lotus was taken over by Pacific, however, Keith Wiggins's team claimed Salo's services. The FIA Contract Recognition Board sided with Tyrrell, but there was no immediate announcement about Salo because Tyrrell and Nokia could not agree on how much sponsorship was necessary to secure Salo's Tyrrell drive. With Pacific Team Lotus offering a better deal than Tyrrell, Nokia was able to lower Tyrrell's demands; and we hear that the final deal was worth around $3 million, $500,000 less than Tyrrell had been hoping for.

Tyrrell's budget will, however, have been topped up with a new fuel deal with Italian oil company Agip - which also supplies Ferrari and Minardi. Tyrrell's former fuel and lubricant partner British Petroleum appears, therefore, to be out of Grand Prix racing along with Shell, which was dumped by McLaren last autumn.

There may also be a little extra money in the kitty thanks to the announcement that Tarquini will be team's test driver. The 33-year-old Italian competed in 37 Grands Prix between 1987 and 1992, ending his career as a driver with Gabriele Rumi's Fondmetal team. Since then Tarquini has raced touring cars while Rumi's Fondmetal Technologies company does all Tyrrell's windtunnel research. Rumi is a big fan of Tarquini and his influence - and perhaps money - will have played a role in the new deal.