Minardi in race against time

Grand Prix racing minnows Minardi faces a race against time to secure an engine supply before Formula 1 testing recommences on December 1st

Minardi in race against time

The Italian team, which has lost its customer deal with Ford, was tipped to secure a supply of Mugen Honda engines for 2001, but reports from Japan say the Honda-affiliated tuning company has now confirmed its total pull-out from F1.

Ford ended its customer engine programme to concentrate on Jaguar Racing's Cosworth-built V10s and is no longer in a position to support even a stop-gap test programme for the team.

Minardi's best - only? - hope now is a deal to run Supertec engines, with sources putting the cost of a season's supply at around £12m. But the Renault-derived V10 units are unlikely to receive significant development next year, following Renault's official return as an F1 engine-supplier.

Rumours that South American media group PSN's majority buy-out of the team is at risk because of the engine supply problem appear wide of the mark - and F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is unlikely to allow two cars to diappear from the 22-car grid.

However, delays in finalising a deal, plus the time needed to finalise installation of a new engine in the team's current MN02 chassis, are set to have major repercussions on Minardi's pre-season testing timetable.

Drivers Marc Gene and Gaston Mazzacane are both tipped to be retained by the team. Gene is key to a soon-to-be-announced sponsorship deal with finance company LeasePlan, while Mazzacane meets PSN's wishes for a South American driver to be included in the line-up.

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