LONDON (Reuters) - Volkswagen motorsport director Jost Capito has been appointed chief executive of McLaren Racing as the Honda-powered Formula One team seek to rejoin the frontrunners after their worst ever season.
The 57-year-old German replaces Jonathan Neale who has been handed a wider remit as chief operating officer of the parent McLaren Technology Group, McLaren said in a statement on Thursday.
Volkswagen said in a separate statement that Capito would leave ‘during the course of the year’ and continue to perform his duties of Motorsport Director until a successor had been appointed.
McLaren do not have an officially designated team principal, with Frenchman Eric Boullier effectively carrying out much of the role as hands-on racing director and remaining in that position.
Ron Dennis, a shareholder and former principal, remains executive chairman and chief executive of the McLaren Technology Group.
Capito has a strong track record in motorsport and has led Volkswagen’s multiple title-winning world rally championship team since 2012, winning 34 of 39 events during his tenure.
He has also worked for Ford, who won world rally championships under his leadership, BMW and the Sauber Formula One team.
”I first approached Jost last summer,“ Dennis said in a statement. ”He is an extremely impressive, competitive and ambitious individual, who comes to us with a very wide range of automotive and motorsport experience.
“I am certain that he will work extremely well with Eric and all at McLaren Racing, building on the very good work they have already done to take the McLaren-Honda program forward towards grand prix victories and world championship successes.”
McLaren, the second most successful Formula One team in terms of race victories, have not won a grand prix since the end of 2012.
Their won their last championship in 2008 with Britain’s Lewis Hamilton, who won the first of his three world titles with McLaren before moving to Mercedes.
The Woking-based team had a rough start to their new partnership with Honda in 2015, with Spain’s double champion Fernando Alonso and Britain’s 2009 winner Jenson Button repeatedly let down by engine failures.
They ended the year ninth of the 10 teams with just 27 points.
Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest carmaker, are wrestling with an emissions cheating scandal that erupted in September and has sent their shares down by about a fifth.
Capito said in October that the company’s world rally project would continue until at least the end of 2019.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar