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Newey saga fuels argument for contract rulings

The wrangling between the Jaguar and McLaren Formula 1 teams over who has the right to technical wizard Adrian Newey's services from August next year, has raised the possibility of a contracts recognition board for designers, similar to the one already in place for drivers

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart made a recent plea to motorsport's governing body, the FIA, after his technical director Gustav Brunner was poached by Japanese car giant Toyota, as it gears itself up to enter F1 next year.

With teams striving for a technical edge over their rivals, designers are now considered as important to an outfit's performance as having a good driver, but at a fraction of the cost.

Jaguar announced on Friday morning that Newey would become its chief technical officer when his contract with McLaren expires in August 2002. This was then followed up by a counter release from McLaren, claiming Newey would be staying with the Woking-based team.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis is believed to have tried to get in touch with Jaguar CEO Bobby Rahal at midnight on Thursday, in an attempt to prevent the Big Cat's press team from sending out the Newey announcement the following morning.

With both teams firing off contradicting statements, a matter that should have been dealt with behind closed doors became a public slanging match and the FIA will be keen to avoid any further episodes that could bring the sport into disrepute.

The poaching of key technical staff is becoming more common place with designers switching teams on a regular basis. Recent movements include aerodynamicist Egbhal Hamidy from Arrows to Jordan and technical director Mike Gascoyne from Jordan to Benetton. Both men were forced to take extended periods of gardening leave before moving to their new teams.

The Neweygate saga could end up being settled by the lawyers with Jaguar's parent company Ford and Mercedes-Benz, which owns a 40 percent share of Mclaren, fighting it out in the courts.

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