The Cosworth tuning outfit will be bought by Audi as part of the sell-off of the Vickers company, leaving Ford to seek an alternative motorsport supplier.

Although Audi have continually stated that it has no F1 aspirations, insiders believe that the acquisition of the Northampton-based Cosworth company will speed up the German company's entrance to the sport. Parent company Volkswagen, meanwhile, have been mentioned in connection with a Le Mans project for 1999, and could make use of Cosworth's expertise regardless of Audi's F1 participation.

Ford, long associated with the Cosworth name, are now left with several possibilities in order to maintain its F1, Champ Car and Super Touring involvement. These include finding an alternative tuning company to replace Cosworth, bringing the race engine programme in-house, buying Cosworth back from Audi or continuing to use the company despite it having changed hands.

The Ford company has said that its Advanced Vehicle Technology and Special Vehicle Operations arms have enough experience to bring the motorsport project in-house, but that it had also been approached by several outside companies seeking to take Cosworth's place. Whatever the outcome, Ford has pledged to continue its involvement in top line motorsport.

The sale of Cosworth to Audi has yet to be formalised but, with VW owning Rolls-Royce, it is thought to be confirmed shortly.