Motor Racing: Eager Peugeot ready to roar into life: McLaren look forward to new engine in pursuit of Williams

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The Independent Online
PEUGEOT'S lion cub gurgled from its cage here yesterday, the first public sounds that herald a new era in Formula One. In 10 days the engine will be transferred to McLaren, and soon after let loose, roaring its challenge to the rest.

The French manufacturer, having established its supremacy in sportscars, is now stepping into the fiercest arena of all, in tandem with the most successful of grand prix teams.

They have committed pounds 80m to the venture and the confrontation they hope it will eventually come down to: McLaren-Peugeot v Williams-Renault. To win the global accolades they must win the domestic struggle with their compatriots, Renault, who have partnered Williams to victory in the past two world championships.

Ron Dennis, the managing director of McLaren, has declared his desire to be competitive from the first race, in Brazil, on 27 March, but Jean- Pierre Jabouille, the head of Peugeot Sport, is more circumspect.

He said: 'I will be happy with one podium finish this year, to win races in 1995 and then try for the championship in '96. If we win before, I will be happy, but I don't believe that will happen.

'Nothing is the same as Formula One. It is important to learn this first. We must have humility. Renault have had an atmospheric engine for five years.'

McLaren plan to have a three-driver squad and so far Mika Hakkinen is their only recruit. Jabouille confirmed his support for Dennis's attempts to lure Alain Prost, the world champion, out of retirement. He also expressed his admiration for the British driver, Johnny Herbert.

Jabouille said: 'The final decision on drivers is Ron's because he pays them. We are very interested in having one French driver, but the problem with Alain Prost is that he is ambiguous. He does not say yes, he does not say no.

'It is a good situation for him, because he is still talking with Renault and Ligier. If he says no to us it is finished, but if he says nothing by next month I will speak to him. We are friends.'

The other French drivers in contention are Yannick Dalmas and Philippe Alliot. Herbert is contracted to Lotus- Mugen, but then almost everyone in this business has his price. Jabouille said: 'Outside the top four or five drivers the others are more or less equal and of the English drivers my first choice would be Herbert. He is quick and finishes races.'

Mark Blundell has joined Tyrrell-Yamaha. The 27-year- old Briton, who finished 10th in the championship with Ligier- Renault last year, teams up with Japan's Ukyo Katayama.