NOVEMBER 30, 1998

So what happens to Tom?

IF Tom Walkinshaw does sell the Arrows F1 franchise to Zakspeed it will enable him to clear away the team's debts and as the facilities and staff are already in place Tom could quite easily turn around and, with new backing, buy another F1 franchise. It would not be the first time that the Scotsman has made tactical withdrawals in F1. In 1994 he switched from Benetton to Ligier and in 1996 from Ligier to Arrows. The obvious targets for the purchase of a franchise are Minardi and Stewart.

There have been a number of rumors in recent days suggesting that a new Walkinshaw operation could be the much-vaunted Jaguar Formula 1 team. Stewart is the obvious candidate for a takeover, given that it is dependent on Ford - Jaguar's parent company.

Without support and technical help from Ford Stewart would be struggling. Most of the team's sponsorship deals are built around the Ford relationship - notably with HSBC, MCI, Lear and Texaco.

Jackie Stewart may not want to give up his team but he is 60 years old in June next year and may conclude that enough damage has been done to his reputation. Many months ago Ford sources told us that if they were going to get rid of Stewart the best way to do it - to avoid public embarrassment - would be to offer him a way out with what would appear to be "a better deal".

We expect to see Ford pressure being brought to bear on Stewart to accept a new arrangement and it makes sense - unlikely though it may seem - for Jackie to accept the role of chairman in some form of Ecurie Ecosse (Team Scotland) arrangement - with Tom Walkinshaw as chief executive.

Ecurie Ecosse was famous in the 1950s for running Jaguars at Le Mans and so this could be a convenient way for the team to transform itself into a Jaguar operation in a couple of years, allowing Stewart to fade gracefully from the scene. The only problem is that Stewart and Walkinshaw are not keen on one another. This, however, is business and all involved will understand that.

Walkinshaw and Jac Nasser, Ford's new chief executive, go back a long way and although Tom has been out of favo r at Ford for some years we understand that his TWR engineering companies have recently started doing more engineering work for Ford.

It makes perfect sense for Jaguar and Walkinshaw to work together to cash in on their highly-successful history in sportscar racing with the Silk Cut Jaguar brand in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Nasser admits that Jaguar is looking at possibilities for the future but says that no decision has been made. We may have to wait until Nasser takes over officially on January 1 before seeing what he intends to do with Ford's motor sport programs but there have been suggestions that the company might concentrate on rallying and touring cars while leaving Jaguar in Formula 1. One can also imagine that Aston Martin - another Ford subsidiary - might be used in sportscar racing.