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F1 NEWS 

Dennis downplays reports of McLaren sale

McLaren are financially fitter than at any time in their Formula One history, according to team boss Ron Dennis, who also downplayed recent reports that Mercedes were in the process of buying out the remaining shares in the McLaren company.

"We have never been more economically strong," he told reporters at the Turkish Grand Prix, dismissing speculation McLaren might have over-stretched themselves with a state-of-the-art new headquarters.

"We have the biggest portfolio of contracted sponsorship in the history of the company and I believe that's probably the history of any Grand Prix team," added Dennis.

"We have the lowest debt, I believe, of any Grand Prix team in the pitlane," he continued. "It's less than $20 million (USD). Our balance sheet is about $300 million (USD)."

Sunday's Turkish Grand Prix marks McLaren's 200th race with engine partner and 40 percent shareholders Mercedes-Benz, owned by car giant DaimlerChrysler.

Dennis owns 30 percent of the British-based team, founded by New Zealander Bruce McLaren in 1963, along with Saudi investor Mansour Ojjeh.

Reports in Germany earlier this month suggested Mercedes were close to buying the remaining 60 percent after paying an estimated $400 million for the original stake in 1999.

Dennis, whose team have signed world champion Fernando Alonso from Renault for 2007 with Vodafone arriving from Ferrari as title sponsor, confirmed that talks were ongoing but said there was nothing new in that.

"Since (1999) it's something that's discussed, how to strengthen the relationship, every three or four months," said the 59-year-old.

"Things change. Obviously, we've had three chief executive changes at Mercedes-Benz and a new chairman.

"This thing tends to get brought back on to the table when these things happen and we talk endlessly but there is absolutely no intention to do anything that doesn't either strengthen the relationship or make us more competitive.

"There is no desire from Mansour or myself to do anything other than achieve that objective," said Dennis.

Mercedes have said that any change in the ownership structure would have no influence on the leadership of the team and Dennis made clear he was not ready to walk off into the sunset.

"Clearly I am getting on a bit but still by many people's standards I've got a few years left in me to push hard," he said. "My consideration is always what's best for the team and the company.

"Yes, there are discussions but these discussions are no different from any discussions that happened in the past. If there are decisions taken, and forward movement at some stage in the future, then there will be an appropriate press release."

McLaren are third in the championship, with no hope of winning the title. They have not won since October last year and are in danger of ending the season without a victory for the first time since 1996.


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