Berger for Prost
As expected, Alain Prost announced his intention to leave McLaren International at the end of the season, at a press conference at the French GP.
He made no bones about the reason why, citing his deteriorating relationship with Ayrton Senna. Prost’s inference is that as long as Senna is there, he won’t be, but neither the Frenchman nor team boss Ron Dennis rules out the possibility of working together in the future. The ridiculous part of the situation is that Prost doesn’t really want to leave and McLaren doesn’t really want to lose him.
Just before the British GP it was also confirmed that his place will be taken by Gerhard Berger. The Austrian, who won his first GP for Benetton in 1986 and another three for Ferrari since joining the Italian team in 1987, could have joined McLaren that year, “but I let my heart rule my head.”
After a troubled 1989 season his heart is ready to listen to his head, and he will partner Senna in 1990.
Should Senna retire at the end of next season, as some feel he will, insiders do not discount the possibility of Prost returning to the team for which, by Silverstone, he had won 29 of his 38 GP victories.
Barnard to leave Ferrari
Ferrari’s Formula One technical director John Barnard will part company with the team when his three-year contract expires on October 31.
Finally announced at the end of June, the split comes as no surprise given the political difficulties caused by the Englishman’s refusal to live and work in Italy. His radical F1/89 chassis, a first-time-out winner at the Brazilian Grand Prix in March with its brand new V12 engine and semi-automatic gearbox, was designed entirely at Ferrari’s GTO office near Guildford, Surrey.
Barnard has yet to announce his future plans, but recent speculation has linked him with the rumoured new F1 projects from Renault and Peugeot, and pointed to a renewed working partnership with Alain Prost. Barnard was the prime mover in the designs of the Porsche-powered McLarens of 1983-87, which helped Prost to two World Championships and 19 Grand Prix victories.
His successor at Ferrrari is to be 40-year-old Argentinian Enrique Scalabroni, who has been Patrick Head’s assistant at Williams for the last five years. Chassis design will revert once more to Maranello, but the future of the British base remains unsure.
Now that the first eight races are out of the way and half the season completed, it was time for re-assessing those teams which needed to pre-qualify and those which had done enough to climb out of the frantic Friday practice sessions.
A change of rules meant that the top 13 teams would get an automatic entry into official practice rather than individual performances. Gerhard Berger, who has failed to score a point all season, must therefore be breathing a sigh of relief!
Into the fold come Brabham, the second Dallara and the second Rial. Dropping down into the fourth division go the two Lolas and the Coloni of Robert Moreno and the AGS of Gabriele Tarquini.
Unluckiest team of all is Onyx which, by scoring two points in France, had done enough to climb its way out – until Silverstone when the Minardi team pulled a rabbit out of its hat and finished the British Grand Prix fifth and sixth place, thereby gaining three very valuable points.
The major beneficiary of the rules change is one Volker Weidler, driver of the second Rial who has never even remotely looked like getting beyond the pre-qualification stage. His good fortune, however, may be short-lived for team owner Gunter Schmid has let it be known that now both cars can enter official practice, he is expecting them to start the race. If Weidler does not come up with the goods, he will be replaced, the fate that has recently befallen drivers in several other teams. Indeed, immediately after Silverstone Rial was due to test F3000 stars Mark Blundell, JJ Lehto and Thomas Danielsson at Hockenheim.
Those teams that will now be prequalifying for the next eight races are AGS, Coloni, EuroBrun, Equipe Larrousse, Onyx, Osella and Zakspeed.
William Munger Heynes has died at the age off 86. Born in Leamington Spa and educated at Warwick School, he became one of the great British automobile engineers. He joined Humber Ltd of Coventry as an apprentice in 1922 at the age of 19. Three years later he was working in the design department, and by 1930 had become head of the Technical division, being responsible for the Humber Snipe and Pullman.
Although joining the board of Jaguar Cars in 1946, he had joined the company as chief engineer in 1935, in which capacity he not only turned various Standard engines into suitable power units for Sir William Lyons’ SS cars, but also turned his hand to occasional rally driving in SS cars.
But he will forever be remembered for his famous six-cylinder twin-cam XK Jaguar power unit, drawn up with the assistance of C Bailey and Walter Hassan, which combined a racing layout with remarkable smoothness and reliability and was produced in far greater numbers than most engines of this kind. He also had a very strong influence on the commercial success of the Jaguar company, and was closely connected with its racing successes at Le Mans and elsewhere.
The 1907 Itala which belongs to Fiat has successfully re-enacted Itala’s victory in the 16,000km Peking-Paris race of that year. The re-run again began in the Chinese capital and ended in the French, but took a longer 22,000km route.
Sixteen Pirelli tyres and tubes had been needed in 1907, but this year the same car completed the distance on just one set of 935 x 135 six-ply beaded-edge tyres.
Brabham Boss goes
Teddy Mayer has continued his topsy-turvy career in motor racing management by resigning as Managing Director of the Nippon Shinpan Brabham team, a post which he only took up on June 1 this year. After managing McLaren since its formation in the Sixties until after its takeover by Ron Dennis in 1982, Mayer was subsequently involved in a number of motor racing ventures on both sides of the Atlantic with fluctuating success.
A conflict of “management style” with chairman Joachim Luhti has made the American reconsider his position with the Chessington team and return as director to Penske Cars from whence he had come.