BMW has pointed to its purchase of a majority stake in the Sauber team as being crucial to its continued presence in Formula One from 2006 and beyond, and claims that it confirms its commitment to the category in what could be troubled times.

BMW realigned its Formula One involvement overnight by agreeing to acquire a majority shareholding in the Swiss privateer team that will lead to a BMW-managed squad
contesting the world championship from as early as next year. Having been an engine supplier to the likes of Brabham, Benetton and Williams over the years, 2006 will mark BMW's first F1 involvement in its own right.

"This decision is a strong, long-term, affirmation of BMW's commitment to Formula One," claimed Professor Burkhard G?schel, "We anticipate that Formula One will emerge strengthened from the current restructuring phase, and that it will continue to represent the top echelon of motorsport for the future as well. For BMW, Formula One is thus the right platform for demonstrating our competence as a car manufacturer.

"Success in Formula One increasingly depends on the perfect interplay of all factors. That is why we have resolved to extend our involvement beyond our present role of engine partner. With a team managed by BMW we will, as of next year, take on responsibility for the entire package, which will include the key factors of the chassis, tyres and drivers.

"We do not expect instant success from the new constellation, but we are convinced that we have chosen the right path for the long term."

Wednesday's announcement will naturally have some impact on current partner Williams, and Goschel insisted that the Munich marque wanted to sit down as soon as possible and discuss its future prospects with the team.

The team will unveil its new identity to the public at the beginning of 2006, but will continue to be based at Sauber's factory in Hinwil, with an increased complement of staff over and above the 300 currently employed by the Swiss operation.

Credit Suisse, Sauber's other major shareholder, will divest itself of an interest in the team by the end of 2008, and insists that it is looking forward to working with BMW in the intervening period.

"What you associate with BMW and Sauber are, on the one hand, long-standing experience in motor racing and, on the other, efficiency and dedication," board member Urs Rohner commented, "That creates an ideal basis for a successful team. Credit Suisse will remain an official partner of the team for the next three years."



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