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[London] Three times world Formula One champion Niki Lauda has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Premier Performance Division – a newly formed division of the Premier Automotive Group established to oversee, coordinate and support the motor sport activities of Jaguar Racing, Cosworth Racing and the Pi electronics group. The Premier Performance Division will be the motor sport arm of the Premier Automotive Group, the Ford Motor Company business group responsible for Jaguar, Aston Martin, Volvo, Land Rover and Lincoln.

Neil Ressler, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Ford Motor Company, who took over as interim Chairman of Jaguar Racing and helped to re-structure the team in 2000, has elected to retire. Dr Wolfgang Reitzle, Chairman of the Premier Automotive Group, the new Premier Performance Division and Jaguar Cars said: "I am delighted that Niki Lauda has decided to join us and once again devote all his time to racing. He is unique in the sport for his knowledge and experience and his straightforward and result-orientated approach."

Niki Lauda said: "It is good to be back in racing on a full time basis and I am looking forward to immediately getting started on the challenge ahead. My role will be to help put in place the building blocks to enable all these companies to realise their full potential and to work together to best effect. Jaguar Racing has a strong Chief Executive and leader in Bobby Rahal and he will be able to continue to focus on running the F1 team and improving Jaguar Racing's competitiveness."

Bobby Rahal, Team Principal and Chief Executive Officer of Jaguar Racing added: "Niki's knowledge of all aspects of formula one racing and his proven credentials as an astute businessman make him the ideal choice for this position. Niki's new role will enable me to clearly concentrate on my objective when I joined the team – and that is to develop Jaguar Racing into a championship challenging team."

One of the most successful drivers of the modern era, Lauda won 25 grands prix between 1973 and 1984 and was three times world champion (1975/77/84) for Ferrari and McLaren. After retiring from the sport he established and successfully operated his own airline – Lauda Air – which he recently sold to the Austrian Airlines Group, the national Austrian carrier. He will no longer serve as a professional airline captain but will focus exclusively on motor sport. Lauda will remain President and main shareholder of Lauda Air Italia S.A.

Jaguar Racing is the Formula One racing team of Jaguar Cars. Established in September 1999, the company employs 335 people and operates out of Milton Keynes, UK. The team will begin its campaign for the 2001 Formula One World Championship at the Australian Grand Prix on 4 March 2001 represented by drivers Eddie Irvine from Northern Ireland and Luciano Burti of Brazil.

Cosworth Racing employs 725 people at its Northampton (UK) headquarters and at its North American base in Torrance, California. The company became a wholly owned Ford Motor Company subsidiary in 1998 and has an annual turnover of $112m. Cosworth Racing supplies racing engines to the Jaguar Racing Formula One team, the Ford World Rally Team and to CART and NASCAR. Cosworth was founded in 1958 by Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth.

Pi Group Ltd., is headquartered in Cambridge in the UK with a further three locations in the United States. The Company was founded in 1986 and became part of the Ford Motor Company in 1999. The company provides electronics for the automotive industry and is a supplier of data logging equipment and other advanced electronics to Jaguar Racing. Pi Group employs 275 people at its locations in the UK and the United States and has an annual turnover of £30m.