Prime Minister of Malaysia On Petronas Link With Sauber

Monday, August 30, 1999 - PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that it is up to Petronas whether or not to review their partnership with Formula One racing team Sauber. "That is a decision that must be made by...

Monday, August 30, 1999 - PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that it is up to Petronas whether or not to review their partnership with Formula One racing team Sauber.

"That is a decision that must be made by Petronas. They will evaluate it ... if they want to go ahead with Sauber, that is their decision. If they want to terminate and go with another team, that will also be their decision," the Prime Minister told a news conference after flagging off the International 300km Merdeka Race at the Sepang F1 Circuit, yesterday.

Dr Mahathir was asked on the possibility of Petronas sponsoring another team in view of the "dismal" performances of Sauber drivers in the F1 championship.

The Prime Minister said he could not pre-empt Petronas on the matter as it was the company's project.

To another question, Dr Mahathir said Proton was now developing its own engine which he hoped would be in production in about three years.

"I think Proton is working on its own engine which I hope will be fully designed and produced by Malaysians.

"It will take maybe three years before you can start actual production," he said.

Dr Mahathir said Malaysia now has the capacity to design a new engine that would be suitable for Malaysian cars.

He was also asked when the Malaysian-made prototype engines developed by Petronas and Sauber Holdings would be used in Proton cars.

"That engine is basically a racing engine. It may be used in some high-end Protons but I doubt whether you can use it just for ordinary Protons," he said.

Dr Mahathir also commended Proton engineering, describing it as "top class" so much so that many companies were interested to form some sort of partnership with the national car manufacturer.

"Proton has made the fastest progress of any new automotive manufacturing company either in the developed or developing world ... much faster than anybody else," he said.

On doubts expressed by some people over the benefits to be gained by the country hosting the F1 race in October, Dr Mahathir said the race would be followed by some 300 million people worldwide and broadcast in more that 50 countries.

"If you were to work out how much broadcasting time would cost if you were to project Malaysia to 300 million people, you will have some idea of the value of the F1 race," he said.

The Prime Minister said all things Malaysian would be highlighted during the event apart from the background information on the host country.

Dr Mahathir said he was informed that most of the seats available at the Sepang F1 Circuit had been booked by foreigners, including the most expensive ones costing some US$4,000 (RM15,200).

He said this would translate into a lot of tourist revenue not just for the government but also for hotels and other industries.

Malaysia, he said, was also keen to host similar international events it thought capable of handling.

When asked when the country would produce F1 drivers, Dr Mahathir said he did not know when this would happen and added that it was a skill which needed to be acquired.

He said aspiring F1 drivers should start with go-kart racing before moving on to other races.

New Straits Times, Malaysia

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Series Formula 1
Teams Sauber