Honda buys stake in BAR

Honda is set to announce next week that it has bought a minority shareholding in the British American Racing team that it currently supplies engines to, according to sources in the team and from Japan

Honda buys stake in BAR

The deal, which is thought to amount to as much as 30 per cent of BAR with an option to increase its stake over a number of years, is said to be all but agreed.

British American Tobacco, which owns more than 90 per cent of BAR, is believed to be considering its future participation in the sport because of strict anti-tobacco advertising legislation that will be introduced in July next year.

It remains unclear whether BAT will keep the team as a going concern separate to its tobacco marketing campaign, or whether it will eventually hand over the keys to the Japanese manufacturer, but autosport.com's sources insist that Honda will not take a controlling interest in the outfit next year.

BAR and Honda were unavailable for comment on the story.

Team principal David Richards' long-term future with the team is not certain, despite leading BAR to second in the constructors' championship in 2004.

When Richards assumed control of BAR at the end of 2002, he brought with him a handful of senior Prodrive managers, including Nick Fry (as managing director) and Hugh Chambers (marketing director) to oversee the re-organistion of the team.

Richards is on a £5m retainer to run BAR for the tobacco giant, but sources maintain that the Button-gate saga in August did serious damage to his relationship with Honda, even though he was largely vindicated by the Contracts Recognition Board which ruled that the British driver had a valid contract with the team for 2005.

Honda believes it deserves more from its level of investment, which is well in excess of US$100m per year, and is pushing for more say in the way the team is run.

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