Sometimes you can read too much into something, but it’s hard not raise an eyebrow at the news that Ineos - the petrochemical company that is building its own rival to the Land Rover Defender, called the Grenadier - has taken over lead sponsorship of Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup yachting team from Land Rover.
Needless to say, Land Rover has nothing to say on the subject. Its sponsorship of the team had come to an end anyway, so why should it? In the same month that parent firm Jaguar Land Rover announced it was cutting its workforce by 1000 people, you might struggle to dispute (on its behalf) the logic of not matching Ineos’s £110m sponsorship package.
But, even though the sponsorship is very much designed to promote the company that has made him a billionaire, not the Defender-that-isn’t-a-Defender that is likely to lose him a few quid, it’s hard not to think the deal hasn't resulted in a smidgen of a twinkle in the eyes of Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe - a man, lest we forget, who is no stranger to controversy via his involvement in everything from fracking to plastics production.
Those with a long memory will recall that when news of Ineos's plans to revive the Defender first broke, Ratcliffe claimed the project very much had Land Rover’s explicit approval. True or not, he now says he’s working on the Grenadier in Germany, with Mercedes input, suggesting the original plan has changed somewhat.
Coincidental or deliberate, I’m guessing the fact that there’s a bit of oblique point-scoring via the sponsorship deal won’t have been overlooked by either side.