When Mika Hakkinen won two successive Formula One world championships in 1998 and 1999, few people realised that his Mercedes engine was actually built by Northampton-based Ilmor Engineering. The company was established by Swiss-born engineer Mario Illien and Paul Morgan in 1983. They first moved into American Indycar racing with the backing of multi-millionaire team owner, Roger Penske. In 1989 they produced their first Formula One engine, and four years later Mercedes took a 25% stake in the company. The German firm has pumped an estimated £35m into Ilmor since it began supplying engines for the McLaren team in 1995. Ilmor declined to discuss the reasons behind its profit increase of 48% pa, from £2.4m in 1996 to £7.6m in 1999. Sales increased by 19% in the same period to £69.9m.
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