Stewart's F1 return to be sealed today

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The Independent Online
Motor racing

The three-times world drivers' champion, Jackie Stewart, will return to Formula One next year as the head of his son's upgraded team,which will be backed by Ford and have serious world title ambitions. The new team, to be called Stewart Grand Prix, will be announced at a news conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit today.

"It will be good to be back," Stewart said. "I have not missed Formula One but now, with the involvement of Ford, I am in a position where I believe there is a good chance to succeed."

Stewart, who won 27 grands prix in 99 races and claimed the world championship in 1969, 1971 and 1973, has been out of motor racing for 22 years.

However, the multi-millionaire has stayed in touch with the sport through his son, Paul, and his British-based team, Paul Stewart Racing, who have been successful in the junior formulas. Stewart Snr will return in 1997, fronting a team backed by Ford and with a five-year plan to challenge Williams, Benetton and Ferrari.

Until now, the Paul Stewart Racing team have only been involved in the British and European Formula Three and Formula 3,000 series. The step up to Formula One will be massive. Stewart Snr, who retired one short of his century of races in 1973 following the death of his team-mate, Francois Cevert, has been closely linked with Ford for many years, acting as a test driver and public relations adviser.

Ford powered Michael Schumacher to his first world drivers' championship in 1994 when the German was with Benetton. Renault later replaced Ford at Benetton.

Ford's backing of Stewart Grand Prix, may mean the end for the Swiss team, Sauber, who will lose the American company's engines. However, Ford are determined to take on the front-runners in Formula One - and they have chosen Stewart as the man to front their challenge.