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...but there is trouble in Munich

THE departure of Andy Cowell from BMW Motorsport in Munich may not seem like big news but it is likely to have a dramatic effect on the German company's ability to produce a competitive Formula 1 engine in 2001. BMW built its first V10 engine at the start of last year. This was heavier and larger than rival V10s and when BMW Motorsport was reorganized last Spring it was decided that the fastest way to improve in the longer-term was to hire some outside assistance. Cowell had played a major role in the Cosworth design team which produced the exciting Ford CR01 V10 engine which showed considerable potential in early races last year. BMW approached the British engineer and an agreement was reached but he did not start working at BMW until the autumn. The fact that he remained at BMW Motorsport for only two months suggests that the relationship never got off the ground and one can only assume that the split was caused by Cowell being unhappy with the situation he found.

Cowell is believed to be on his way to a new job at Ilmor Engineering, where he will help Mario Illien and his engineering team keep ahead of the opposition with the development of the Mercedes-Benz V10 engine.

For BMW, however, Cowell's departure is a disaster. Engine designers with the necessary skill and knowledge to produce frontrunning F1 engines are few and far between and it will probably mean that BMW will not now have an all-new engine until the year 2002 unless a replacement can quickly be found. Any new recruit will, almost certainly, be forced to sit out six╩months and, assuming that it will take BMW a couple of months to make contact and negotiate a deal, this means that the new recruit would not be able to start work in Munich until September at the earliest - by which time it will be too late to produce a new engine for 2001.

The only obvious route which would speed up the production of a new generation engine would be to buy an existing engine. There are no obvious engines for sale as rival manufacturers are not going to be keen to give away their secrets. However, British engine designers John Judd and Brian Hart have the knowledge necessary and may be available to help out BMW. Judd was involved in F1 between 1988 and the end of the Yamaha F1 project in 1998. In the course of last year we heard that his Engine Developments company had produced a new engine which was producing some impressive horsepower figures and we believe that Toyota has considered a deal with Judd. In recent weeks, however, we have heard that Toyota is going to do the work in-house and so, in theory BMW could acquire the Judd program.

Brian Hart's situation is not clear. He did a deal with Tom Walkinshaw to produce the Arrows V10 engine but the two parties have been in dispute for over a year and it is not clear whether or not Hart is available to design engines for a rival.

It is not known what Williams thinks about the latest development in Munich but the team is unlikely to be very happy as it will not be keen on an additional period without success after years of constant winning.

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