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  Friday, 11 October, 2002, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
McLaren pull off engine coup
David Coulthard in the McLaren at the Japanese Grand Prix
McLaren's engine has been lagging behind

The McLaren-Mercedes team have boosted their prospects of taking on Ferrari next season by signing up an engine expert from rivals BMW.

The move is a major coup for Mercedes, which has been struggling with engine development in recent years and has fallen a substantial distance behind BMW and Ferrari.

The BMW V10, used by the Williams team, is regarded as the most powerful in F1, and by employing project leader Werner Laurenz Mercedes should discover many of its secrets.

Laurenz has been heavily involved in the design of every BMW engine since the company returned to F1 in 2000.


Of course it is always a loss if a key figure leaves a team
Mario Theissen
BMW motorsport director

The German company has moved the goalposts in terms of what is expected of an F1 engine, stealing a lead that used to be held by Mercedes.

BMW has refused to confirm that Laurenz is moving to Mercedes, but a source close to McLaren has confirmed to BBC Sport Online that it is the case.

It is a hugely significant coup for McLaren, who are regarded as having the second best chassis after Ferrari this year.

They have been restricted by their Mercedes engine, which started the year some 70bhp down on the BMW, and has gained about 25bhp in the course of the season.

BMW's quick progress has also been an embarrassment for Mercedes, which has been in F1 since 1993 and won world titles with McLaren in 1998 and '99.

The two companies are major rivals in the road car market.

Laurenz would not likely be able to have an impact in time for the start of next season, but his influence would certainly be felt in the course of 2003.

McLaren are delaying the introduction of their new car next year to ensure enough time for the development of a brand new engine.

Ralf Schumacher in the Williams-BMW at Suzuka
The BMW engine has been a huge boost for Williams

And Laurenz's presence could ensure that the new V10 is fully on the pace by the time it is introduced - which is expected to be in time for the fourth or fifth race of the season.

BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen said Laurenz would be replaced by the F1 project's chief designer, Heinz Paschen.

"Of course it is always a loss if a key figure leaves a team," Theissen said.

"Werner Laurenz has been instrumental in getting the team up and running and part of the success we have had so far certainly goes to him and his work.

"On the other hand he has been leading a very strong and stable team as well, so we are able to fill the role internally."

Theissen refused to admit that Laurenz was going to Mercedes but admitted that he was "worried" that his former designer would help boost his new team's performance.

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