DaimlerChrysler buys stake in McLaren

DAIMLERCHRYSLER, the fifth-largest carmaker in the world, has agreed to buy a 40 per cent stake in TAG McLaren Group, one of the most successful makers of Formula One racing cars, for around pounds 300m.

The acquisition will help DaimlerChrysler develop its own sports cars. It will give the German-American giant roughly half of the McLaren Formula One racing team, currently owned by Mansour Ojjeh, a Saudi businessman, and Ron Dennis, head of the Grand Prix team.

In a separate statement, the German firm and UK-based McLaren, winner of eight Formula One world championships, said on Friday that they would invest pounds 130m in a MacLaren factory in Woking to manufacture a Mercedes super sports car that will go on sale in 2003.

DaimlerChrysler said yesterday that it only has an option to buy the Tag Mclaren stake and the terms of the purchase will only be disclosed when all details have been completed.

Jurgen Schremp, DaimlerChrysler chief executive, said: "This is another element of our strategy to enhance products and differentiate the Mercedes- Benz brand in an increasingly competitive market.''

The two firms have been Formula One racing partners since 1995 when DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes Benz started supplying engines for the McLaren Mercedes Formula One cars, a combination which helped Finland's Mika Hakkinen to become world champion last year.

The new Mercedes super sports car, the Mercedes SLR, is scheduled to be built in the TAG McLaren factory under construction in Woking. The companies estimate that they will sell about 500 cars each year.

The car will include features such as a lightweight, carbon- fibre body and a 544-horsepower V8 engine. While Mercedes and McLaren didn't disclose a price, German weekly Welt am Sonntag reported the car will cost about pounds 170,000.

Nicola Foulston, chief executive of Brands Hatch Leisure, will step up her attempts to buy Silverstone racetrack this week by tabling a formal bid of pounds 43m for the track, which yesterday hosted the British Grand Prix.

Ms Foulston has been stalking Silverstone with the support of Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One boss, who recently agreed to switch the British Grand Prix to Ms Foulston's Brands Hatch from 2001 if Silverstone's owners refuse to sell.

So far Silverstone's owners, the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC), chaired by Lord Hesketh, have rebuffed Ms Foulston's approaches, preferringtheir own demutualisation plans. Ms Foulston is set to write to the BRDC's 832 members offering them windfalls of up to pounds 60,000 each if they accept her bid.

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