JANUARY 19, 1998

Ford promises bigger push for Stewart

STEWART GRAND PRIX launched its new SF2 chassis last week at Ford's Research and Engineering Center at Dunton, Essex, with high hopes for the season ahead - the team's second in Grand Prix racing. But Stewart Grand Prix chairman Jackie Stewart warned that 1998 may be a more difficult year than 1997. The team scored a fortunate second place at Monaco last year but otherwise the season was spoiled by a lack of horsepower and poor reliability, although the Stewart chassis was obviously quite good.

"In my opinion 1998 will be, in many ways, more difficult than our first year," said Stewart. "People may expect too much of us in 1998. I expect a conservative year, a year of consolidation."

There was good news from Detroit, however, with Ford's new director of Special Vehicle Operations Dan Davis indicating that Ford will have an even closer involvement with the team than previously - probably at the expense of Ford involvement in others forms of racing. "Jac Nasser appointed me to make Ford win again in all the major series. A major turnaround like that will not happen overnight. We expect to withdraw from series which do not meet our strategic goals."

The new SF2 featured increased Ford badging and the new Ford V10 engine has been designed with a great deal of input from Ford engineers in Detroit.

The team confirmed that it has ambitious plans for this season with the intention of growing from 110 staff to around 170 at the end of the year with the establishment of a test team and expansion in several departments in the team's new factory, into which the operation will move in the Spring.

The team did not announce any new sponsors but Jackie Stewart revealed that the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Corporation - Ford's banker - would be increasing its involvement.

The new SF2 is the work of Alan Jenkins and his design team - 13 members of which, each clad in a Racing Stewart kilt, unveiled the car, accompanied by the incongruous noise of a Scottish samba band, featuring bagpipes and samba drums...