JANUARY 29, 1996

Stewart looking for cash in Asia

JACKIE STEWART has begun his hunt to find the money he needs to launch Stewart Grand Prix into F1 in 1997. The Scotsman managed to convince the Ford Motor Company to give him a five-year deal to use the company's racing engines - but now he has to pull in the $30 million necessary to get the show on the road.

Stewart says he wants to have at least one British company, one from North America, and perhaps two from Asia. In search of Asian partners, Jackie was in Singapore last week meeting with the High Commissioner to see if he had any advice on which local companies are best-suited to F1.

This is a most unusual high-profile approach to F1 sponsor-hunting. Normally teams are highly secretive about the companies they are talking to, lest a rival team offers a better deal. Stewart, however, seems to think that his strongest card is his fame, and that companies will rush to be associated with him. It remains to be seen if he will be successful.

Back in England, Stewart's major backer in recent years in Formula 3000 - Rocco Forte - has lost control of the Forte hotel empire in a $5.5 billion hostile takeover bid by Granada. The leveraged buyout means that sections of the Forte group will now be sold off to pay for the sale. It is unlikely that there will money for motor racing.

Rocco Forte, however, will take around $450 million for his shares in the company and says he is planning to build a new hotel chain - and he could, in theory, use F1 as a means of advertising in the years ahead.