JANUARY 17, 2000

Fondmetal buys rights to old Ford engines

THE Minardi team has finally given some details about its plan for the 2000 season with the announcement that the team has been renamed Telefonica Minardi Fondmetal. The team has not admitted that Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica has purchased the operation - information which has been confirmed by several rival groups which were bidding for Minardi - but says that Telefonica will "give an important contribution to the budget".

The current management will remain in place with Gabriele Rumi remaining company president and Giancarlo Minardi continuing as managing-director, Gustav Brunner has negotiated a new three-year contract and will stay on as technicalÊdirector while Cesare Fiorio remains sporting director.

The big difference is that Rumi has bought the rights to develop the 1998 Ford Cosworth V10 engine and has secured the support of key personnel and equipment to produce and rebuild the V10s. The details of the arrangement are not clear but it is possible that Rumi has purchased elements of Cosworth Racing in Northampton. The main Cosworth operation - which will supply engines to Jaguar Racing - will be relocated to a new facility as soon as it is ready and so Fondmetal could use the old facility in the longer term. Fondmetal boss Rumi is probably planning to offset costs by selling versions of the "FondmetalÊV10" engine to competitors in other forms of motorsport - notably sportscar racing and hillclimbing.

The team will continue to use Rumi's Fondmetal Technologies facility in Casumaro, Italy where the Minardi M02 has been undergoing windtunnel testing. The new car will be launched in mid-February.

The team has confirmed that Marc Gene will be one of its drivers for the next two years. The second driver is likely to be decided upon by Telefonica, which is expanding fast in South America. Brazilian Max Wilson and Argentina's NorbertoÊFontana are both in the running for the drive.