Motor Racing: Tobacco giant creates new F1 team with purchase of Tyrrell

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British American Racing, the long-planned Formula One team put together by Craig Pollock, the manager of the new world champion Jacques Villeneuve, yesterday announced its intention to compete in the 1999 world championship.

The title conveniently incorporates the politically acceptable two-thirds of the name of the team's backers, British American Tobacco, who have 12.8 per cent of the global cigarette market. The company has bought out the struggling Tyrrell team, and the new organisation will include the expertise of Reynard, the hugely successful IndyCar constructor, to build their cars.

Ken Tyrrell made his reputation in racing in tandem with a Scottish driver called Jackie Stewart in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Now Stewart, too, is a team boss, but is under pressure from the authorities following his warnings over the sport's continued association with tobacco companies.

In what appears as a tit-for-tat move, motor sport's governing body, the FIA, have demanded assurances from the Stewart team that they have the financial resources to fulfil a full second season in F1. Stewart recently lost one of their sponsors and the opportunity to embarrass them was apparently irresistible.

Stewart said: "It would seem the FIA do not know their own regulations because it is stated quite clearly that only teams finishing outside the points the previous year, in this case 1997, could be asked for their financial declarations for entry the following year. We finished with points and in the top 10.

"Can anyone imagine I would have gone ahead with this unless I was sure we could complete the programme? I have no doubt this was meant as a rap across the knuckles."

For the foreseeable future, F1 will be able to draw on tobacco resources and BAT have involved themselves in a major project. The travel benefits accrued by Tyrrell will pass on to the new team. Reynard will design the cars at a new factory in Brackley, Northamptonshire, and Villeneuve is expected to leave Williams at the end of next season to lead them on the track.

Pollock said: "There are many things different about British American Racing. We will be different for several reasons, among them our openness and the strong desire to be close to our audience. Our team will not be the private preserve or the top of a rich owner - our fans will have a claim."

Tyrrell, who won the championship with Stewart in 1969, 71 and 73, has decided to bow out gracefully rather than attempt to chase a lost cause. "This has probably been the most difficult decision I've ever had to take. The cost to compete in F1 has escalated dramatically and we are not satisfied with being relegated to the back of the grid. We have come to the conclusion it will be preferable to pass the Tyrrell legacy on to a new team which shares our ideals and philosophy."