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Jaguar set to lure Ferrari's top 'spanner man'

World title-winning chief mechanic Nigel Stepney is set to leave Ferrari and join Jaguar Racing – and with the team's pit stop performance one of the key areas targeted for improvement by new boss Bobby Rahal, other personnel are tipped to follow.

Stepney joined Ferrari from Benetton in 1993 and is regarded as one of the unsung heroes of the Prancing Horse's renaissance. He was briefly – and literally - thrown into the spotlight this season when Michael Schumacher's car ran into him, damaging his ankle, during a pit stop at the Spanish Grand Prix.

The Milton Keynes-based team remained tight-lipped on the 41-year-old Englishman's imminent arrival: "It's definitely just a rumour," said a Jaguar spokeswoman.

Having consistently failed to match Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes on pit stop times, Jaguar is set for a major overhaul on its procedures, and Champ Car team owner Rahal's input could prove significant.

US-based racing series such as NASCAR routinely 'trade' complete pit crews, with noticeable results: Winston Cup star Jeff Gordon's pit stop performances suffered significantly after several of his crack 'Rainbow Warriors' switched teams before the start of the 2000 season.

After scoring just four points in its debut season, Rahal and Jaguar Racing president Neil Ressler have pledged to bolster the team across the board. Former Lola aerodynamicist Mark Handford has already joined the design staff, with more high-profile appointments expected.

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