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ClaudioMuse

Team Phoenix

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Ho da poco scoperto dell'esistenza di questo team. Pur avendo seguito la stagione 2002 non ne sapevo niente. Le uniche notizie che sono riuscito a trovare vengono da wikipedia:

Phoenix

Qualcuno pu? aggiungere qualcosa?

Peccato, almeno non avrebbe lasciato la Life come ultima cenerentola.

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Alla fine del 2001 Alain Prost aveva debiti per un ammontare di circa trenta milioni di sterline. Il problema, evidenziato dallo stesso Alain in alcune interviste dell'epoca, si era dimostrato a partire dal 2000, anno in cui fini' il sodalizio con Peugeot e Gauloises, reperire un "grande sponsor". Il team andò in bancarotta, e nel Gennaio 2002 "Prost Grand Prix" fini' in liquidazione: fu fissata dal giudice Cosme Rogeau una scadenza per rilevare la società (circa trenta giorni, cioè entro la fine del mese successivo - Febbraio ndr). Un limite non da poco, visto che avrebbe potuto permettere al team di "rientrare" per gareggiare nel 2002. Però non arrivò nessuna offerta per rilevare la società, e si decise di vendere il team "a pezzi": materiali tra cui i telai AP04, e i diritti legati al Patto della Concordia. Il compratore, prezzo 2,5 milioni di euro, sembrò essere la società "Phoenix Finance Ltd", il cui rappresentante era impersonato da Charles J.Nickerson, un ex-socio di Tom Walkinshaw (all'epoca team manager della Arrows). La FIA bloccò l'operazione subito, sostenendo, sulla base delle relazioni del giudice di cui prima, che nè il nomenclatura, né la società erano stati assegnati, né l'iscrizione del team al campionato 2002 avanzata. Quindi, in definitiva, un' iscrizione irregolare. In un comunicato ufficiale, Nickerson scrisse che gli avvocati della FIA avevano operato un' interpretazione errata della sentenza del tribunale francese, e che la loro decisione era stata viziata dal fatto di non essere in possesso di tutte le informazioni corrette. Allegò anche una lettera del giudice Rogeau, dove si avvalorava la tesi che la Phoenix, oltre al materiale tecnico, aveva acquisito dei "benefits" (tra questi ricompresi i diritti di iscrizione).

Contemporaneamente, in una conferenza tenutasi a Melbourne nella settimana pre-gp, Walkinshaw rivelò il suo personale coinvolgimento nell'affare Phoenix. Ecclestone ribattè a Nickerson, sostenendo che sarebbe stato impossibile pensare di vedere la Phoenix correre a Sepang. Tuttavia dopo il gp Australiano, tre giorni prima delle libere ufficiali della Malesia, si presentarono all'aeroporto di Kuala Lumpur circa trenta membri della TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing), due vetture blu (un misto fra due telai AP04 e retrotreno della Arrows A22), i motori V10 Hart-Arrows del 1998 e tre piloti : Mazzacane, Enge e Marques. Il team non raggiunse il circuito, eccezion fatta per Mazzacane: viene rifiutata l'iscrizione al gran premio, e la 'Phoenix' operò un cambio di nome ('DART' - nome di una vecchia azienda di Walkinshaw che operava nel settore degli pneumatici). Arrivò un comunicato stampa della 'DART' dove si esprimeva sopresa e sgomento per la decisione FIA, confermando però l'intenzione di voler emergere come scuderia in un futuro alquanto prossimo. In Brasile la FIA rifiutò ancora il team, argomentando sulla base del regolamento del Patto: un team non poteva saltare due gare ( non importava se consecutivamente o meno) a stagione, pena l'esclusione per tutta la durata del campionato. A sostenere la posizione intransigente della FIA, si aggiunse anche Stoddart. Infatti la Minardi avrebbe ereditato il decimo posto nella classifica costruttori - in base alla classifica 2001 (Prost 9° e Arrows 10°) ed al ritiro sopravvenuto della Prost dopo il 2001 (la Arrows zoppicherà per tutto il 2002, per poi ritirarsi dopo Australia 2003). Questo avanzamento di classifica ovviamente avrebbe significato soldi per Minardi European, quantificati in circa dodici milioni di dollari. La DART ricambiò il nome in "Phoenix", si appellò alla Supreme Court of the United Kingdom e "creò" una nuova vettura, denominata "AP05" - stesse componenti di quella di cui si è parlato prima in occasione di Sepang, con la differenza del motore, Ford stavolta. Sul fronte piloti, Marques avrebbe dovuto in teoria sostituire Thomas Enge, che nel frattempo ripiegò in F3000, prima dello sbarco in IRL. Il risultato fu che nel fine settimana di gara, si videro solo il motorhome, i piloti, i meccanici e quant'altro, ma non il posto assegnato in pitlane. Come colpo finale l'Alta Corte di Londa, respinse l'appello presentato contro la FIA, ordinando anche il risarcimento delle spese processuali a carico della "Phoenix". Come si è detto prima Walkinshaw voleva salvare baracca e burattini avendo preventivato il fallimento della Arrows, ed infatti il team fini' in un mare di debiti già nella prima parte di stagione (da Belgio in poi diedero forfait).

Edited by Patresalboretangelis

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Grazie Patresalboretangelis. Ho anche letto che Walkinshaw Riprovò l'ingresso nel 2003 utilizzando anche i materiali della defunta Arrows senza successo. Esistono comunque foto delle vetture?

Solo non mi è chiara l'ultima frase. In che modo Walkinshaw voleva salvare la Arrows con questo team fantoccio?

Edited by ClaudioMuse

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Grazie Patresalboretangelis. Ho anche letto che Walkinshaw Riprovò l'ingresso nel 2003 utilizzando anche i materiali della defunta Arrows senza successo. Esistono comunque foto delle vetture?

Solo non mi è chiara l'ultima frase. In che modo Walkinshaw voleva salvare la Arrows con questo team fantoccio?

Circa le foto dovrei fare una ricerca, ma è abbastanza difficile trovarne, ci provai tempo fa. Prima mi sono espresso ambiguamente, Walkinshaw , a quanto dicono le fonti, sembra fosse coinvolto nel senso che aveva l'intenzione di fornire un aiuto "tecnico" - (per poi prendere le redini del comando a lungo termine, aggiungo io ndr). Mi paiono però strane queste indiscrezioni, quella dell' impegno preso su due fronti, visto che nel 2002 la Arrows di certo non se la passava bene e si senti' per tutta la stagione "odore" di ritiro.

 

Una curiosità: il nome DART (Dunlop Automobile Racing Team) ricorda vagamente un altro acronomico della stessa sfera semantica, ARROWS :D . In più i motori "Arrows" erano i motori della compagnia di Brian Hart, che Tom Walkinshaw aveva rinominato "Arrows" ed usato nel 1998-1999.

 

___________________

Comunque ho trovato questo articolo, è in lingua inglese ed è datato 15 Febbraio 2002:

 

When The Mole was a child he was fascinated by stories of smugglers and pirates and one of his favourite poems was Rudyard Kipling's "The Smuggler's Song". The Mole can still remember it now: "If you wake at midnight and hear a horse's feet, don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street. Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie. Watch the wall, my darling, while 'The Gentlemen' go by."

 

The Mole has always found this to be good advice when dealing with pirates, spies, terrorists, smugglers, drug barons and all the other interesting people one gets to meet at dinner parties. It is also good advice when dealing with some of the people in Formula 1, although this is not to suggest that anyone in the paddock is in any way reminiscent of any of people involved in the above list of occupations.

 

The Mole has found that some people in F1 are best if they are just left alone to get on with their wheeling and dealing because they get very upset if anyone asks too many questions. They then start throwing law suits. The Mole thought originally that Tom Walkinshaw was somehow involved in the Phoenix Finance Ltd story and as Thomas Dobbie Thomson Walkinshaw (as he is legally known) has a habit of going to the High Court when he does not agree with people The Mole felt that it was better to "watch the wall".

 

The Mole is not perfect (despite what his mother used to say) and when Walkinshaw told the world that the whole business was nothing to do with him and that his only involvement with Phoenix was "to support the engineering side of it" The Mole realised that he had made a mistake. And so out went The Mole operatives to investigate the rather curious Phoenix operation. Charles Nickerson, the man behind (or in front of) Phoenix is a friend of Walkinshaw. In fact the two men have done much business together over the years. They were even team mates in touring car racing 20 years ago when Nickerson used to race under the pseudonym "Chuck Nicholson".

 

The Mole's "watchers" have spotted Nicholson/Nickerson at a variety of F1 races in recent years. Usually he was hanging out in the Arrows motorhome.

 

Suddenly, it seems, this quiet gentleman has been transformed into a whirling dervish of corporate gymnastics as he tries to turn himself into a Formula 1 team owner. Why a wealthy man who is probably now close to 60 would want to do such a thing is a bit of mystery, but it seems that he does and by all accounts he is expending a great deal of energy to make it happen, despite being told by the FIA, by Bernie Ecclestone and by the other team owners that he is wasting his time trying to turn a pile of Prost parts and some old Arrows engines into a racing team.

 

Nickerson does not seem like a man who is often driven to desperate measures and this is the odd thing about the whole Phoenix business. If the organisation is so keen to compete in Formula 1 and has the money to do it, why is it messing about with all this secondhand material and sending cars off to Malaysia where they become impounded by the customs because someone has not thought the whole idea through? The Mole feels it would be infinitely more sensible to go along to the FIA and get a proper entry for the 2003 World Championship. The entry is available and one does not even have to pay for it. All that is needed is a deposit of $48m which is then refunded with interest in the course of the team's first season.

 

If Phoenix does not have enough money it could always ask Walkinshaw for a good word at the bank as Tom has managed to convince his bankers to lend Arrows vast amounts of money in unsecured loans. Walkinshaw appears to have an impressive Midas Touch when it comes to bank managers. If Phoenix cannot afford to pay for everything, there seems to be little point in going on because even the smallest team is spending around $40m this year. So if Phoenix does not have the $48m necessary to enter the World Championship next year why on earth is it trying to botch together a racing team from leftover bits and pieces from defunct companies which were never competitive?

 

One must add that time is an important issue as well. Walkinshaw may be helping out with technical things and staff but it is hard to see how he can do this for long as 2002 is a vital year for Arrows. The new car looks to be quite good when it manages to start a race but if it is not developed it will fade back towards the Jaguars and Minardis. Phoenix cannot use the Prost facilities in France and does not have its own headquarters at the moment. The logical thing to do, therefore, rather than wasting money on sending half-built cars to Malaysia and then having 30 people sitting around in a hotel with nothing to do, would be to use the time available to get things set up properly for 2003.

 

Diplomatically, as well, the attitudes of Phoenix have been very poorly viewed in F1 circles. The sport is looking ahead to an era of clean-cut, efficient businessmen with nothing to hide and open attitudes. This is the future and yet here is Phoenix challenging the FIA, ignoring Bernie Ecclestone and sticking up a finger at rival teams. It is changing company names from Phoenix to D.A.R.T and then back to Phoenix for no obvious reason (although there presumably is a reason) and has produced documents purporting to prove things that it wants to prove but which oddly were not included in the original sale documents. In France the investigative journalists are so amazed by what has been going on that they are now looking very closely at the activities of the Prost liquidator and even the Prost creditors are demanding a judicial review.

 

The result of it all is that Formula 1 looks at the whole sorry business with distaste. Even some of the less savoury people in the F1 paddock are saying that Phoenix is doing bad things for the image of the sport.

 

Tom Walkinshaw must be delighted that he is not involved.

Edited by Patresalboretangelis

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trenta membri della TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing), due vetture blu (un misto fra due telai AP04 e retrotreno della Arrows A22), i motori V10 Hart-Arrows del 1998 e tre piloti : Mazzacane, Enge e Marques.

 

Caspita, non sapevo dell'esistenza "fisica" delle vetture... Tanti dati non sono stati riportati da Autosprint che reputo la bibbia dell'automobilismo sportivo! Forse perch? al tempo c'era un certo Ivan Zazzaroni come caporedattore?

Cmq che dovesse avere foto in merito, si faccia vanti: io prover? a controllare meglio su AS se almeno c'? qualche illustrazione della vettura o cose simili... Mi sembra comunque di ricordare che la Phoenix dovesse correre con i nuovi telai della Prost che erano praticamente pronti a fine 2001... Poi, ho trovato questo link interessante: http://pandinigp.blogspot.com/2007/04/la-mosca-blanca-nmero-5-prost-ap05-2002.html

Qui abbiamo da quello che mi sembra di cabire, una bozza grafica per la Repsol della AP05, si parla di Frentzen e Enge come piloti con riferimenti a De la rosa (pi? indicato per lo sponsor Repsol...)... Nella bozza su schermo del PC si nota anche lo sponsor YPF che se non ricordo male era lo sponsor di Mazzacane... Direi interessante... che ne pensate?

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Mi ricordo di quella livrea. Però i miei ricordi, potrei fare confusione però, mi riportano al gioco GP4, che originalmente era di default settato con le vetture della stagione 2001, undici scuderie. Quando apparve il "Mod stagione 2002", o comunque i lavori di progettazione per lo stesso,per riempire il "buco" lasciato dalla Prost, si fece la finzione di far restare la Prost immaginando quella livrea. Ripeto, potrei essere inesatto, perchè la prima volta che vidi la livrea, è stato nel 2005, quindi alcuni anni dopo.

 

Comunque per fare luce sulle "fonti" che ho usato:

grandprix.com

forum atlasf1bulletin

 

Vi metto la cronistoria presa da grandprix.com della storia Prost nei primi mesi 2002, ovviamente ci sono informazioni maggiormente dettagliate in materia:

JANUARY 5, 2002

Two serious offers for Prost Grand Prix?

THE protest by Prost employees at the French Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry drew attention to the team's plight - as it was intended to do. The Prost men said that they had little hope of any government assistance for the team but said that they hoped that the publicity would attract a big French company to rescue the team.

One of the Prost men Franck Doyen told the media that the team has two serious offers but he did not give any details.

Our spies in Australia say that the organizers of the opening round of the World Championship in March have been told not to expect 24 cars...

 

JANUARY 10, 2002

Prost confirms (provisional) Ferrari deal

 

ALAIN PROST has finally confirmed that his team will run with Ferrari engines in 2002 - if it survives the January 15 deadline which has been set by the team's legal administrator. Prost told Radio Monte Carlo that if he can find $40m there will be no problems for the year ahead.

 

Prost said that he is also counting on Heinz-Harald Frentzen being the team's lead driver. This will come as bad news for Tom Walkinshaw who wants Frentzen for Arrows but will be great news for Australia as the Minardi team is thus likely to conclude a deal to run Mark Webber. Prost said that there were two or three options for the second driver but did not name names: one is thought to be Tomas Enge, Webber is another possibility and the third is thought to be a French driver, either Stephane Sarrazin or Jonathan Cochet.

 

The deal is not yet done but after months of uncertainty there is a lot more positive feedback from Guyancourt. Whether the deal is completed remains to be seen but the signs are that Prost may yet be able to send cars to Melbourne.

 

"It is just a matter of money," Prost said.

 

JANUARY 11, 2002

Prost's second driver

 

AS France waits for news as to whether or not Prost Grand Prix is going to be saved, there is speculation that as part of the deal the team will run a young French driver in the second car. Much will depend on who buys the team but the obvious candidates at the moment are three young men, only one of whom has actually raced in F1 before.

 

Stephane Sarrazin is now 27 and has been waiting for a break to get into F1 for three years. In 1999 Sarrazin deputized for the injured Luca Badoer in the Minardi team in Brazil and did an impressive job until a front wing failure caused him to have a very large accident, although he emerged unscathed. He was the Prost test driver again in 2000 but had a bad year in Formula 3000 with the McLaren Junior Team and since then he has been struggling to keep his career going.

 

Jonathan Cochet is younger than Sarrazin and won the French Formula 3 title in 2000. Since then he has acted as a test driver for Prost while racing only in a handful of international Formula 3 races. He has been very successful in these and his most recent victory was in Korea at the end of last year, where he beat all the 2001 stars of F3.

 

The third man to watch out for is Franck Montagny. He is just 24 but has had to fight his way through the junior formulae in France. He was on course to win the French Formula Renault title in 1996 when he broke both legs in a big accident but then came back to win in Formula 3 in 1997, winning four races. In 1998 he won eight times but was beaten to the title by David Saelens who had use of the new Renault engine. He moved to Formula 3000 in 1999 but struggled for money in 2000 and this year decided to switch to the Spanish Formula Nissan Open series and won the title. He is due to test for Minardi next week at Valencia but could be in the running for the Prost drive.

 

France, it should be remembered, has only one Grand Prix driver this year and Olivier Panis is no spring chicken. The arrival of Renault Sport should improve the situation for young French racers.

 

JANUARY 15, 2002

Prost waits for the administrator to decide

 

ALAIN PROST has done all he can do to save his indebted Formula 1 team and he is now waiting to see if the latest offer - which he says is worth around $40m - is enough to convince the team's legal administrator that the team can be saved. Prost owes around the same amount of money but says that the team is aiming to pick up more backing as it goes along. The administrator Franck Michel must now decide if this is a sensible solution. It is entirely up to Michel as to whether he thinks there is enough money to keep the team in business. In all probability he will let the business go ahead because the major debts will have been covered and the team has some income already pledged for the season ahead (including money from the TV fund and travel costs).

 

There are many suggestions as to who is behind the attempt to save the team but clearly whoever it is not throwing money away. In exchange for the money being pledged, the new backers are expecting to get the majority of the shares in the team, although Prost may himself be kept on as a figurehead.

 

_______________

JANUARY 16, 2002

Who goes where if Prost closes down?

 

THERE continue to be suggestions that Alain Prost is going to be forced to close down his Formula 1 team later this week as the proposals he has put forward have not done enough to convince the judicial administrator Franck Michel that the team can survive. There have been reports that none of the offers are very serious and that Prost's last-ditch plan was to miss the 2002 season and try to make a comeback in 2003. In France speculation is rather more optimistic but it remains simply speculation.

 

For most of the team the closure of Prost would be a disaster but there are a number of high level employees who would almost certainly be able to find jobs elsewhere. The technical team is generally fairly young in age and so more mobile than some others. Technical director Henri Durand has lived for 10 years in Britain while working at McLaren and if Prost does close down he is likely to be snapped up by another team (although it is not clear which team that might be). The team's managing-director is Spain's Joan Villadelprat. He lived in England for 20 years while working with a variety of F1 teams and it is quite possible that he would be welcomed back at Renault Sport, which he ran for Flavio Briatore in the old Benetton days. Also likely to find work in Britain is Sporting Director John Walton, who has worked with a variety of teams in the course of the last 20 years. Whispers suggest that Walton could end up at Minardi as the team is trying to pick up experienced F1 personnel at the moment.

 

JANUARY 24, 2002

Prost is still in business

 

THERE is a delay in the decision but that means that Prost Grand Prix is still in business. The court in Versailles says that it has received several similar proposals for partnerships in Prost. All of these seem to be structured in the same basic way with Alain Prost giving up equity to gain immediate funding to pay off the debts. Although no choice has been made by the court, which has asked for more information and guarantees to ensure the long-term future of the operation, it is clear that the decision is likely to be positive when it is finally announced on January 28.

 

The court did however remind Prost that if the guarantees demanded were not good enough then the team would be liquidated.

 

The effects of the decision are going to be felt first in the driver market with the resolution of the final seats for the F1 entry this year. If Prost survives Heinz-Harald Frentzen will stay. Jos Verstappen will thus stay at Arrows and so Minardi will have room for Mark Webber. This will leave only the second Prost seat up for grabs. Alain Prost has hinted that this might go to a Frenchman but it really depends on who buys into the team. If, for example, the team is taken over by, let us say, Flavio Briatore, it is safe to assume that he will want one of his drivers in the seat. Thus Webber could go to Prost and then Minardi would have to make a different choice.

 

JANUARY 26, 2002

Prost going to the wall

 

THE word on the street in Paris is that Prost Grand Prix is going to be liquidated on money, Alain Prost having failed to find a suitable package to save the team. This would mean that Prost himself will disappear from the F1 scene and Heinz-Harald Frentzen will be free to race for Arrows. It is thought unlikely that he will wait around any longer to see if there is to be a buyer for the assets of Prost. However the Prost-Ferrari package was obviously enticing enough to keep him from doing a firm deal with Arrows and so there might be some value in waiting to see as Heinz-Harald's salary this year is being paid by Jordan Grand Prix whether he races or not. "We do not have all the assurances that would allow us to continue under better conditions," Prost said on Friday, "but I will have fought to the end."

 

JANUARY 28, 2002

Prost Grand Prix goes out of business

 

THE Prost Grand Prix has been put into liquidation by a commercial court in Versailles after team boss Alain Prost failed to find a solution to pay debts of $28m. The company has been in receivership since the end of November but no rescue package has been possible to date. The assets of the team will now be sold off by the courts.

JANUARY 31, 2002

Who will buy the Prost factory?

 

THE biggest question since the collapse of Prost Grand Prix is what is going to happen to the team's 70,000 sq ft. factory in Guyancourt. Built in 1998 at a cost of $7.5m the Prost factory houses many of the machines that are needed for modern F1 engineering businesses. No team is expected to buy the factory but it could be a useful purchase for either of the Paris-based F1 engine companies.

 

Asiatech is located not far from Guyancourt in a building it shares with the Peugeot Sport World Rally Championship program. The deal is a long-term lease arrangement and if Asiatech is considering staying in F1 for the long-term (and there has long been talk that ultimately the organization would like to buy an F1 team) it would be an idea to buy the Prost facility. Asiatech may have been one of the groups bidding for Prost Grand Prix although the team principals have said that they want to have a chassis operation based in Britain if and when they do acquire a team.

 

The chance to buy the Prost facility could provide Asiatech with the chance to move to more modern facilities as the Peugeot Sport factory dates back to the 1980s. Asiatech could transfer all the machinery, which it owns, and end up with a much better working environment.

 

However, Renault Sport might also be interested in buying the facility because the current factory at Viry-Chatillon was established by Amedee Gordini in 1965. It has been enlarged and modified on several occasions but this has meant that it is not as effective as a new facility might be. The facility at Viry-Chatillon cannot easily be enlarged because it is squeezed between an access road to the industrial estate and a motorway. It is decidedly unglamorous.

 

The advantage of moving to the Prost facility is that this is located just around the corner from the Renault Technocentre and is much more in keeping with the glittering image that Renault likes to present to the world.

 

The other major asset belonging to Prost is the windtunnel in Magny-Cours. This is only a 40% scale facility but it was upgraded in 1999. Prost had plans to replace it with a new bigger facility near Guyancourt and a site was chosen but there was never enough money to begin work.

 

Inside the factory the team has a variety of machinery including autoclaves, five-axis cutting machines and computers all of which could be useful to either Renault of Asiatech.

 

 

___________

 

Fronte Arrows

FEBRUARY 1, 2002

Chello struggling

 

THE cable company United Pan-Europe Communications, the parent company of Arrows sponsor Chello, has announced plans to pay off $7bn of debt by issuing new shares, thus diluting the existing shareholdings. The company's share price is a fraction of what it was a year ago and the announcement is likely to drop the value of the company still further. UPC is being forced to make the move as it cannot make interest payments on its debts.

 

FEBRUARY 5, 2002

Walkinshaw loses in court (again)

 

THE Court of Appeal in London has rejected the appeal by the Arrows Formula 1 team against a ruling in February last year that the team should pay Pedro Diniz $700,000 in compensation after it failed to convince a court that Diniz broke his contract with Arrows at the end of 1998. The court ruled that was the team was "in breach of certain provisions of the contract and that the defendant (Diniz) was therefore entitled to terminate in the way he did".

 

Arrows appealed the decision but that appeal has now been rejected and the team have to pay up unless it wants to take the case to the final court of appeal in Britain, the House of Lords.

 

 

FEBRUARY 4, 2002

Who goes where from Prost GP?

 

THE liquidation of Prost Grand Prix will free up a number of team personnel to work with other Formula 1 teams. The team's managing-director Joan Villadelprat will be one man who should soon be snapped up. He ran Benetton for most of the 1990s before trying to establish his own team with backing from Telefonica. The bid to buy Minardi failed and so Villadelprat moved to Prost. It is possible that the new Renault F1 team would like to have him as part of the team.

 

Prost technical director Henri Durand is also likely to be a man in demand as he spent 10 years with McLaren before moving to Prost as technical director last year. Durand was not able to have much influence on the Prost AP04 but his development work in the course of the season did improve the performance of the car. A number of top teams are believed to be interested in signing the Toulouse engineer, who came out of French space program in 1984 to join Ligier. He went to Ferrari in 1987 and worked on the revolutionary 639-640 chassis before moving to McLaren in 1990.

 

Also worth watching will be Prost's chief designer Jean-Paul Gousset, a man who came to F1 from the Citroen rally raid program in 1993 when he joined Team Lotus. After Lotus closed he worked in research and development at Lotus Engineering before being taken on by Arrows. He then moved on to Prost.

 

Prost's chief track engineer Vincent Gaillardot was also a former Arrows man after cutting his teeth with ORECA, DAMS and Renault Sport. Gaillardot is rare in that he is qualified both as a chassis and a motor engineer. While at Renault Sport he worked with Williams, Ligier and Benetton so he is widely known in the F1 paddock.

 

Another man who may be in demand is composite specialist Ian Thomson who spent nearly 10 years at Sauber before moving to Prost.

 

The other point of note about the closure of Prost is that it will free up John Barnard's B3 Technologies to work for other F1 teams. Barnard has not been able to do much in recent seasons because of a lack of budget but he remains one of the most influential thinkers in the sport and runs a tidy design and fabrication business in Shalford in the former headquarters of Ferrari Design and Development.

FEBRUARY 8, 2002

Sponsor loyal to Verstappen, dumps Arrows

 

WHILE Tom Walkinshaw and Arrows have abandoned Jos Verstappen, Dutch sponsor, Trust, will remain loyal to him.

 

Verstappen's official website has posted a message saying that, in response to Arrows' decision to dump the Dutchman in favor of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, the computer peripherals company has pulled out of their sponsorship deal with the team, and will continue to support Jos.

 

FEBRUARY 8, 2002

Arrows forgets to tell Verstappen...

 

JOS VERSTAPPEN has a right to be less than pleased with life at the moment but to add insult to injury he says he has not heard from the Arrows team that his services will not be required in 2002 - except by reading it on the team website. Although the Dutch media are reporting that Verstappen's manager Huub Rothengatter was surprised by the news this is not strictly the case as it had been expected that the team would break Verstappen's contract.

 

Rothengatter has hinted that there will be legal action against Arrows.

 

The team will not be intimidated by this as it seems to have at least one law suit going at any given moment - usually more.

 

FEBRUARY 15, 2002

Arrows and the Verstappen/Frentzen mess

 

A week after the signing of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and the firing of Jos Verstappen by Arrows without any comment by Tom Walkinshaw, the team boss has finally justified his decision to the world.

 

"We wanted a driver who was capable of winning races and in the past had won grands prix, because it will provide us with no hiding place," said Walkinshaw. "It will be up to us to achieve results."

 

"We wanted Frentzen because we feel we have a good car and we wanted to make the most of it."

 

The F1 world knew these were his reasons, and saw the move coming weeks in advance, but it was not exactly professional protocol for Walkinshaw to tell Verstappen he was fired after he told the public.

 

With all the race seats in F1 taken at the moment, Verstappen can now only hope a seat opens up during the season. In the immediate future, Verstappen has decided to pursue a claim against his former team in the courts, the Dutchman's manager, Huub Rothengatter, has confirmed.

 

"We will start to have a substantial claim against Arrows and we are prepared to pursue this through the courts," said Rothengatter. "People think it is the end of the story but it is not. This has been very disappointing and we will take action that's for sure. What is the value of a signed contract? We did not just shake hands or smile at each other. It was a signed contract which had been registered at the contracts recognition bureau in Geneva."

FEBRUARY 6, 2002

Buying the Prost design

 

A number of Formula 1 teams seem to have found themselves in difficulties because they decided not to copy the Sauber aerodynamic principles which were introduced in 2001. Several teams tried the ideas in the windtunnels but did not find any substantial gains but they are now beginning to worry that they are going to be left behind as other teams have gone down the Sauber route and are going faster.

 

It is reckoned that it will take a team three months and a great deal of effort to switch its cars to the Sauber suspension and aerodynamics, assuming that a design has been completed and all the necessary research and development has been done. In effect this means that a switch is impossible as it would take the best part of a season to complete the changeover.

 

However, the fact that Prost designed a car with the Sauber front end but then had to abandon operations might open the way for a rival team to buy the intellectual property rights to the design and adapt the design to fit whatever engine is being used. This may sound strange but it would not be the first time that a team has bought the design from another. In the 1950s Ferrari acquired the design of the Lancia F1 car and it became a very successful Ferrari racer. In modern times Reynard's F1 design of 1991 was used by several F1 teams in the years that followed.

FEBRUARY 7, 2002

Prost says US bid came close

 

ALAIN PROST revealed in his outspoken interview with Autohebdo magazine that there were two American groups which bid to buy Prost Grand Prix. He said that one of them was serious and that the plan was for the team to remain based in France but with an American offshoot.

 

Prost said that the deal did not come together as there was just not enough time left to get everything in place.

 

FEBRUARY 7, 2002

Prost attacks

ALAIN PROST has lashed out in an interview with the French weekly magazine AutoHebdo at those people who he feels bear some of the responsibility for the failure of Prost Grand Prix.

 

Prost said that he was naive and made mistakes.

 

"One of the mistakes I made was to be too nice to Peugeot," Prost said. "In 1994 Ron Dennis recognized immediately what was going to happen and broke the contract with them. That was easy for him because he had Mercedes-Benz waiting behind the door. My mistake was not to have the force of character to say: 'No".

 

Prost said that five big companies all agreed deals but then failed to deliver the money promised. He claimed that Yahoo! signed a deal worth $100m over three years but withdrew after just a few months because of problems with the Internet economy.

 

Prost said that one of his biggest mistakes was to hire Alan Jenkins as technical director.

 

" I worked with him at McLaren," Prost said. "He was pleasant, open and available. When he was with me he was closed up and totally anti-French. He destroyed what Bernard Dudot had created within the team and with the suppliers. That was an enormous error of casting. A catastrophe that I ended as quickly as I possibly could."

 

Prost was also very critical of his partner in 2001 Pedro Diniz, describing Diniz as being "not very serious, immature and Daddy decided everything".

 

Prost claimed that on one occasion he had a meeting planned with Diniz and his lawyers to discuss the Brazilian buying the team and Diniz did not even turn up as he was "on his boat in St. Tropez".

 

Prost also criticized the French government for its 35-hour week legislation and huge social charges when at the same time it is a 30% shareholder in Renault and allowed the company to buy Benetton Formula to get around these problems. Prost said that he was "disgusted by the way in which things happened" in France and said that he feels that he has a better understanding of "the Anglo-Saxons and even the Italians!"

 

Prost also said that in four years the team underwent three tax investigations and one from the social security authorities.

 

_____________

 

FEBRUARY 17, 2002

The Prost does not have a Sauber front end

 

WE may never see the Prost AP05 in action but photographs of the windtunnel model reveal that the car does not have the Sauber-like front end aerodynamics. The team did complete one chassis and this went to through the FIA crash-testing procedures without any problems.There is not much chance of the team being revived but for the moment there is still the core of the company in place and a very impressive design staff headed by Henri Durand and Jean-Paul Gousset.

Edited by Patresalboretangelis

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FEBRUARY 27, 2002

TWR bidding for Prost?

 

AS the Arrows team was launching its Formula 1 program for 2002 in Melbourne, a curious rumor surfaced in Paris with word that the Tribunal de Commerce of Versailles is studying a last-minute attempt to keep a 12th Formula 1 team going. The word in Paris is that Tom Walkinshaw Racing is trying to buy the assets of the defunct Prost Grand Prix team. Walkinshaw is the man in control of Arrows.

 

While such a deal seems strange given that Arrows is not the wealthiest of teams, there is logic in the move. Prost is entered in the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship and if the team appears it will get something like $12m in TV money (which is available because of the results achieved last year by Prost). Prost has several 2001 cars which are ready to race and there is believed to be one new chassis which was built for the FIA crash tests. The problem is that in order to run the cars and claim the $12m, it is necessary to pay for Ferrari engines - which cost about $25m a year. There is no doubt a value in the 12th F1 "franchise" but it is a big investment for anyone. Walkinshaw has one advantage over others who wanted to buy Prost in that he already has a stock of old Arrows V10 engines from 1998 which are of no real value to him. If these were fitted into the Prost chassis the cars could run and the team could be revived. It would give Walkinshaw a team without the massive debt load that Arrows has built up. Walkinshaw may control Arrows but he owns only 40% of the equity.

 

In order to claim the $12m available TWR must retain the same company number as Prost had but if that happens it is likely that Walkinshaw would be liable to the Prost debts - which would make the deal a worthless one. If the court in France decided to sell the company number as an asset but leave the debts and responsibilities behind there would be uproar in France - not least amongst the 200 or so Prost staff who are currently unemployed.

 

The court in Versailles turned down some serious offers for Prost (the largest was believed to be worth $60m) and so selling off the assets for a fraction of that price would be a difficult thing to justify.

 

There is the additional problem that the team will not be ready to race for a while and that would mean fines having to be paid. These are not however massive in comparison to the F1 budgets of today.

 

The final problem is whether or not an F1 entry survives if a team has been placed in liquidation. That is not a decision that the court can make and one must assume that it is something covered by the Concorde Agreement, although such details are shrouded in secrecy and so it is hard to speculate.

FEBRUARY 28, 2002

TWR rising from the ashes of Prost?

 

THE decision of a French court to sell TWR the major assets of Prost Grand Prix for a tiny sum of money is an extraordinary one and the reaction in France is going to be interesting because the deal leaves Prost's creditors with little hope of getting any money back. The team went into liquidation owing $30m and the major assets have now been handed on for less than 10% of that.

 

There is also likely to be an explosion in F1 circles as the revival of Prost means that the $12m of TV money (perhaps more) will not be going to Minardi, which stood to gain a share of the TV revenues if Prost closed down. The question now is whether the entry is still valid as the team missed the deadline for entries in Australia, which was signed off by the three FIA stewards yesterday afternoon. According to our understanding of the Concorde Agreement if a team misses a race while insolvent the entry is immediately forfeited and so there is now an argument as to whether the entry is still valid or not and with so much money at stake it is hard to imagine that Minardi will sit down and take the news without some reaction.

 

The deal could have serious effects on a number of other teams as well: The Arrows organization, which is 40% owned by Tom Walkinshaw (and controlled by him) has debts in the region of $100m (the last accounts were published at the end of 2000) and its current deal with Orange is coming to an end this season. The future is looking decidedly grim. Walkinshaw and his partners in Arrows (Deutsche Bank) are not on good terms and there is at least one legal action going between them. That means there is little incentive to keep the team going.

 

The big question is what parts of Arrows are owned by Arrows itself and what is owned by TWR. It is quite possible for example that Heinz-Harald Frentzen has a contract with TWR rather than with Arrows.

 

This is not the first time that there has been a question like this involving TWR. Back in April 1996 when Walkinshaw was running Ligier but acquired Arrows a number of the staff were found to have TWR contracts rather than deals with Ligier. Arrows also took Ligier sponsors Parmalat and Power Horse. It will be interesting to see for example what happens to the windtunnel in Bedford and the team's headquarters in Leafield as these are probably owned by TWR not by Arrows.

 

This could mean that the heavily indebted Arrows team will end up in terminal trouble. This would have serious repercussions for the creditors of that organization as there may not be many assets left to be sold if Arrows were to go out of business. This must be causing worries, for example, at suppliers such as Cosworth and that could even impact on Jaguar Racing, Cosworth's sister company, as the money from Arrows was due to be used to help pay Jaguar's F1 bills.

 

While one can see the merits of such an idea from TWR's point of view, it is hardly the kind of business that will reflect well on F1 and it will be interesting to see whether there is any reaction to the deal from the motor racing authorities.

 

If all goes to plan, TWR will appear in the Malaysian GP with the old Prost chassis powered by Arrows V10 engines. One must presume that one of the cars will be offered to Jos Verstappen. The other could go to anyone with some cash. It is highly unlikely that they will be competitive and there may be questions of legality because it is hard to see how the new team can design and build the rear end of a new car in the space of two weeks!

 

When all is said and done, however, one must stand in awe of Walkinshaw's ability to cut deals.

 

FEBRUARY 28, 2002

TWR acquires Prost!

 

THE Tom Walkinshaw Racing organization has apparently agreed a deal to buy elements of the defunct Prost Grand Prix. According to well-connected sources in Paris, the Tribunal de Commerce in Versailles has agreed to sell to the TWR company the Prost F1 entry (worth something like $12m), the 2001 cars and the intellectual property rights to the 2002 car for a sum reported to be only a couple of million dollars.

 

Extraordinarily, the talented Mr. Walkinshaw has managed to convince the French legal people that TWR should not be liable for any of the debts of Prost, nor responsible for what happens to any of the staff. Prost creditors are going to get almost nothing and this may cause some upset as the court turned down several offers which were worth tens of millions of dollars before placing the company in liquidation. This will not affect Tom Walkinshaw, of course, as any criticism will go to the court.

 

While the court may argue that circumstances have changed and that it raised as much money as it could raise (which is its job), the staff and the creditors have got almost nothing.

 

TWR is not expected to take on more than a handful of Prost people, leaving in the region of 180 Prost employees out of work. The intention appears to be to set up the new team in England.

 

FEBRUARY 28, 2002

A twelfth team in 2002?

THERE are lots of rumors at the moment that there might still be 12 teams in Formula 1 this year but the reality is that there is no hope of such a thing. If anyone had the money available to save Prost it would have made sense to do that rather than buy up the assets and then have to pay a $48m bond to the FIA to start a new team. Prost could have been turned into a going concern for about $100m. The only issue would have been changing the name but that can bee agreed easily enough between the team owners if newcomers are sensible about their behavior.

 

Buying Prost's assets and people (who are already dissipating at speed), paying the FIA deposit and then running the team would cost more than $100m and there would be no TV money from the Formula One group of companies, which there would have been if Prost had been kept alive. This would have saved a further $8-10m.

 

In practical terms the situation is virtually impossible as well. The team could use the old cars and work to finish the half-built new chassis but that would be an enormous struggle. Minardi survived last year in similar circumstances but an awful lot of money was spent and there was little in the way of results. Paul Stoddart's goal was long-term and while a buyer for Prost's assets may have similar ideas, it would have been logical to buy Prost before it came apart.

 

MARCH 2, 2002

All quiet on the Prost front

 

AFTER a day of fiery exchanges between Tom Walkinshaw and Paul Stoddart over the issue of the assets of Prost Grand Prix, more facts are beginning to emerge about the deal.

 

The most important point is that it is by no means clear that the deal will leave Walkinshaw (or whoever he represents) with the Prost entry, which gives access to the $12m of TV and travel money. The argument appears to have boiled down to a question of how one interprets a clause in the Concorde Agreement about the meaning of the word "insolvency" and whether a team misses a race meeting if it fails to turn up for scrutineering or if the failure to appear begins when the checkered flag falls at the end of the weekend.

 

As the media are not allowed to see the Concorde Agreement it is rather difficult to be sure of the rules. Beyond that it is down to interpretation which will means that there will need to an arbitration hearing to sort out what the clause means. And judging by the mood of the two men involved there could be legal action after that.

 

In the meantime, Tom Walkinshaw is saying that he has bought the team on behalf of someone else and that the only role being played by Tom Walkinshaw Racing is "supporting the engineering side of it". Walkinshaw says that the buyer or buyers will "announce the whole thing when they are ready", and says it is TWR's job is "to get it up and running and do it properly".

 

On the weekend when Walkinshaw marks his 100th Grand Prix as Arrows team boss he has been very keen to reassure everyone that "Arrows is in good shape for the year so that is where I'll be focussed".

 

Walkinshaw will, of course, also be spending some of his time on Gloucester Rugby Club and his various other businesses in which he is involved.

 

The rumors in Melbourne suggested that the buyers - who are believed to belong to an English company which features the word "Phoenix" (the mythological bird who rose from the ashes) - is one of Walkinshaw's oldest friends Charles Nickerson. Nickerson used to race under the name "Chuck Nicholson" and was Walkinshaw's team mate in the Jaguar European Touring Car team in the early 1980s. "Nicholson" was a capable gentleman driver without being a star and raced under a pseudonym to avoid it being thought that his activities were being funded by the Nickerson Seed company, which his family owned at the time.

 

In the mid 1980s Walkinshaw bought several agricultural companies from Nickerson and the two men have remained close with Nickerson being a regular (but low profile) visitor to races each year.

 

Tom Walkinshaw said in Melbourne that the new team will feature drivers Tomas Enge and Gaston Mazzacane (unless the buyers change their mind) and that makes it fairly clear that the buyers are not loaded with cash as both men have paid for their drives in F1 to date.

 

What is said at times like this does not always correspond with events in the longer term and the truth about the purchase of Prost will only really be known as the story unfolds.

 

Meanwhile in France there is much discontent that the creditors and the staff of the old team have been left in the lurch with only a pittance having been raised from the sale of Prost assets.

 

Prost himself is on holiday at the moment in Mauritius, recovering from a stressful last few months. Most of his staff remain unemployed in Paris.

 

MARCH 3, 2002

Practical problems for Phoenix Finance

 

FORGETTING the legal and political issues involved in the takeover of Prost Grand Prix assets, the Phoenix Finance Ltd. F1 team is going to have a series of virtually insurmountable problems in the weeks ahead if it is to stay alive.

 

Getting the equipment together is also going to be interesting as well. For a start the Arrows Engine company ceased trading on May 5, 2000 and around $4.8m was written off. The company then said it was negotiating to sell its assets to clear outstanding liabilities. It is therefore not clear who is now the owner of the engines or whether they will now be purchased by Phoenix. Sticking these old V10s into the old Prost chassis in the course of a few weeks will not be easy but that is nothing compared to the problem of designing and building a gearbox and rear suspension in the time available. The new team cannot use Arrows parts unless the other teams all agree and the Prost gearbox was designed for the Ferrari V10 engine and so would have to be botched to mate with the Arrows V10.

 

There is also a question of tires.

 

"We have programmed our production for the year and we have no capacity to add an extra team at this late stage," said Michelin's Andy Pope.

 

"We do not have the engineers or the production facilities to support another team," said Bridgestone's Taka Horio.

 

Thus in order to run the new team will have to find a new tire supplier.

 

Phoenix must appear in Malaysia because otherwise it will miss two consecutive races and the entry will be null and void.

 

It is not yet clear who will be the lucky man to have unscramble all these problems but it is perhaps significant that veteran TWR team manager Andy Morrison, should unexpectedly turn up in Melbourne.

 

 

MARCH 5, 2002

Phoenix shot down in flames

 

IT was clear in Melbourne that whoever was behind the Phoenix Finance Ltd. Formula 1 team did not have a very clear understanding of the way in which the sport operates - or was taking a chance that the F1 authorities could be convinced it was a good idea to break the existing regulations.

 

That was a forlorn hope.

 

On Tuesday in London Bernie Ecclestone gave his thoughts on the subject to The Times newspaper, saying that the purchaser (whoever it might have been) had "bought nothing in Formula 1. All he has bought is some show cars. He can forget it. He is wasting his time thinking about racing in Malaysia."

 

The newspaper also contacted FIA president Max Mosley who said that the federation had no communication from Phoenix but that the group "do appear to have major difficulties if they want to join the grid."

 

Tom Walkinshaw and his pal Charles Nickerson, who were both named as "representatives" of Phoenix Finance Ltd. On February 16 this group made its first offer of around $2m for some of the assets of Prost Grand Prix. This was rejected. On February 28 it was accepted by the liquidator Cosme Rogeau.

Phoenix returning to ashes?

 

DESPITE the plans being laid by Arrows F1 team boss Tom Walkinshaw there are still very serious doubts that the Phoenix Finance Ltd. bid to become a Grand Prix team will result in any cars appearing this year. And if no cars show up in Brazil the team will lose any rights it had (if it has any). It is of course possible for Phoenix to turn up with bits and pieces and inhabit a garage in Malaysia as the Concorde Agreement does not apparently insist that a team must actually go out and race. All that has to be done is to present cars for scrutineering. Phoenix might be planning to do that for all the remaining races this year but that would probably result in the FIA kicking the team out of F1 for bringing the sport into disrepute.

 

The federation took that step in 1992 when Andrea Moda Formula was turned away when it arrived for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

 

But before the Phoenix effort can fail it actually has to gain admittance to the F1 club and that is not going to happen.

 

"It is explicit in the Concorde Agreement that if a company goes into insolvency and it subsequently misses one event, then all its rights fall away," said McLaren boss Ron Dennis. "If someone attempted to circumvent that by creating a new

 

company, it is just that - a new company - and you can't transfer rights."

 

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has already said that if the team goes ahead he will take legal action to stop it happening if the Concorde Agreement is not being respected.

 

The liquidator in Paris has stated that Phoenix Finance is a new team not Prost Grand Prix and so it is hard to see how Phoenix can argue otherwise.

 

To make matters more complicated Ferrari has confirmed that the team would not be using Ferrari engines in the back of the old Prost AP04s (the power unit for which the car was designed).

 

"We are not going to supply engines for a second customer team this year, whoever it is," Ferrari team boss Jean Todt said in Melbourne.

 

Phoenix and Skoda

 

THE business with the Phoenix Finance company trying to buy assets of the Prost Grand Prix team generated a vast number of daft stories about who might be behind the idea. Our sources say that the man behind the idea was none other than Tom Walkinshaw and the whole thing was dreamed up between him and his pal Charles Nickerson (aka Chuck Nicholson, Walkinshaw's former co-driver in the European Touring Car Championship in the early 1980s.

 

Walkinshaw may still be trying to make the deal happen but all the indications now are that this is not going to be a success unless Phoenix is willing to pay the FIA a deposit of $48m to secure the 12th slot in F1. The team could then enter F1 next year as a new team. This is not thought very likely to happen as neither Walkinshaw nor Nicholson is believed to have the sort of money which would be needed.

 

Among the mad rumors that were circulating was one suggesting that Skoda, the Volkswagen-owned Czech car company was behind the plan. This seems to be rather wide of the mark and VW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder has again denied any interest from VW in F1 - at least for a few years to come.

 

Pischetsrieder was quoted in some stories saying that he would love to own an F1 team but our sources say that he was talking personally rather than from a company point of view.

 

Pischetsrieder is a friend of Bernie Ecclestone from many years back but he is believed to have told the F1 supremo that Volkswagen has no plans in the short term for any involvement in Formula 1.

 

MARCH 12, 2002

Phoenix arrives in Kuala Lumpur

 

TOM WALKINSHAW and Charles Nickerson's Phoenix grand prix team have arrived in Kuala Lumpur, presumably in an attempt to compete in the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend.

 

There are numerous hurdles, both technical and logistical, for the team to clear before it is able to compete, the largest of which are Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley, who have said recently that the team has bought nothing in Formula 1 and has no entitlement to race.

 

The new team has gone about preparing to compete very quietly, without contacting the FIA or even a tire supplier. Bridgestone has said that it would be able to supply the new team with tires if asked, but not in Malaysia because time would not permit it.

 

The team brought two Prost AP04 chassis with them to Malaysia, and presumably intends to fit them with TWR engines. It remains to be seen how they will transfer the power to the rear wheels, as it is unknown if a gearbox exists that will work with the engine/chassis combination.

 

Gastone Mazzacane has a contract with Phoenix to drive this year, and was told by the team to ignore any press suggesting the team would not be allowed to compete.

 

 

MARCH 13, 2002

Phoenix told to go away

 

THE FIA has issued a statement which makes it very clear that the Phoenix Finance Formula 1 team cannot take part in the World Championship this year - because the rights of Prost Grand Prix cannot bee transferred to another body. Phoenix has been trying to force the issue and had turned up in Malaysia with two Prost AP04 chassis.

 

An FIA statement said: "Having examined the judgement of the Tribunal de Commerce de Versailles the FIA's advisers have noted that the court has not transferred Prost Grand Prix itself nor made any attempt to transfer the Prost Grand Prix entry in the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship, either to Phoenix Finance Limited or to Mr. Nickerson."

 

If Phoenix wishes to compete in 2003 it can make an entry and pay a performance bond of $48m to the FIA.

 

Phoenix Finance Ltd. is a mysterious organization but is "represented" by both Tom Walkinshaw (the boss of the Arrows F1 team) and by his longtime friend Charles Nickerson.

 

The whole operation is seen in F1 circles as a front for Walkinshaw although he says that he is simply supplying engineering know-how.

 

It is curious that Phoenix should turn up in Malaysia as it was clearly always going to be a waste of money but it seems that the team was hoping to brazen it out with the FIA and the other teams. There may still be legal action in the days ahead at Phoenix tries to join the World Championship but such a decision would be disastrous for F1 as it would create a precedent by which teams could move the rights from one company to another without any controls. That would mean any team with debts could simply shut up shop and start a new company - which would catastrophic for the credibility of the sport - and the teams involved.

 

The moves being undertaken by Phoenix would seem to reflect the attitudes of Walkinshaw rather more than Nickerson, the latter being a very relaxed character. Walkinshaw traditionally uses every legal challenge possible before accepting a decision.

 

Faced with opposition from the FIA, Formula One Management and most of the F1 teams, it is hard to see that he will be successful in this matter and the question being asked in F1 circles is why he is fighting so hard for a new project when it might be wiser to concentrate his efforts on his own team Arrows, which is heavily in debt and needs some good results this season.

 

MARCH 14, 2002

What is the story with Phoenix?

 

THE PHOENIX FINANCE LTD. plan for a Formula 1 team to rise from the ashes of Prost Grand Prix is a strange story, which does not appear to make much sense. Phoenix bought a few rag-tag assets which would just about get a couple of cars running and claimed to have acquired Prost's rights as laid down in the Concorde Agreement. Anyone with any knowledge of Formula 1 knows that these rights cannot be transferred from one company to another. There might be case argued in court but the concept has been established for 20 years and no court is thought like to change such a stabilizing regulation, which was designed to stop tam bosses from closing down one team when they get into debt, shifting assets to another and starting up a completely new team. Team bosses can start new teams if they wish to do so but they have to either acquire an existing solvent company or they can start a new operation and pay a $48m bond to the FIA to become one of the 12 F1 teams.

 

There are complicated rules related to the changing the name of cars but if all the other teams agree this is not an issue. Teams can have as many holding companies or subsidiaries as they wish but they must retain the original company. Over the years several teams have got into trouble for trying to bend these rules, notably in April 1995 when Arrows - then owned by Jackie Oliver - was called before the FIA International Court of Appeal for breaching the rules of entry in the Formula 1 World Championship. The court ruled that the team could change its name to Arrows but had to go on running cars called Footworks. The team received an official reprimand from the FIA for failing to enter properly.

 

Back in February 1991 there was a more severe punishment for the Larrousse team which was deprived of all of its 1990 World Championship points because of "a false declaration stating that the car had been built by Espo-Larrousse whereas it turns out that it was built by the British firm Lola". The move meant that Larrousse lost all its travel benefits and dropped into pre-qualifying.

 

When Tom Walkinshaw took over Arrows in 1996 there were also problems and although he launched TWR F1 he had to keep the name Arrows and had to run cars called Footworks until he had convinced rivals to accept that the cars could be called Arrows.

 

McLaren's Ron Dennis said at the time that he was refusing to sign because he did not want to create a precedent whereby teams with famous names could be altered at whim - depriving the sport of its heritage.

 

One can see why it would be convenient for Phoenix to take the assets of Prost and leave the liabilities behind but this is being resisted by both teams and organizers and it is strange that the team's "representative" Charles Nickerson should adopt such an abrasive approach.

 

If Phoenix really wants to enter F1 it can do so in the autumn with the payment of a reimbursable $48m deposit.

 

Phoenix may try some legal moves to force change but it is unlikely to be a success - and even if it is, such a move would only lead to the new team being alienated from its competitors.

 

MARCH 14, 2002

Phoenix fails to make scrutineering

 

THE PHOENIX FINANCE Formula 1 team failed to appear for scrutineering in Malaysia and when the entry for the event was signed off by the FIA stewards in the middle of Thursday afternoon, all theoretical rights which the organization is claiming are thought to have disappeared as the Concorde Agreement apparently states that. Teams are not allowed to miss two consecutive races.

 

Thus, even it was eventually concluded that Phoenix had acquired the Prost entry, the rights associated with the entry have now disappeared, making the purchase worthless.

 

According to documents which have now been made public in France, the owners of Phoenix (whoever they may be) accepted that there was a risk that the rights purchased would be ruled worthless and agreed not to try to recoup the money from the liquidator of Prost Grand Prix. Thus Phoenix has spent $2.6m and bought nothing but a few old racing cars. This desperate situation might perhaps explain the team's weird decision to fly cars to Malaysia despite the fact that the FIA had ruled that the team had no right to appear.

 

The matter proved to be irrelevant anyway as the cars were impounded by customs authorities in Malaysia when they arrived as they were ruled not to be part of the F1 package which is covered by a multi-million dollar bond which allows the teams to import and export the cars without having to pay duties. In order for the cars to be released by the authorities it is thought that the Malaysians were asking for a bond of $1m.

 

MARCH 15, 2002

Phoenix goes onto the offensive

 

WITHIN the next few hours the owners of Phoenix Finance Ltd. - whoever they may be - will issue a press statement claiming that despite the ruling of the FIA the organization does own a Formula 1 team and that it has a right to compete in the World Championship. The statement is likely to be the start of a legal campaign by Phoenix (represented by Tom Walkinshaw) to get the operation to be allowed to compete.

 

It is likely to take many months of legal wrangling for the issue to be solved and it is unlikely that the team will be allowed to run in that time.

 

MARCH 15, 2002

Phoenix attacks

 

PHOENIX FINANCE LTD. issued a press release in Malaysia suggesting that the company is going to be taking legal action against the FIA in an effort to take the place its claims on the Formula 1 grid. The press release was distributed by Arrows representative Helen Shergold, who changed shirts shortly before starting to hand out the statements, adding to the general belief in F1 circles that Tom Walkinshaw is playing a rather more important role in the whole business than he has previously suggested. This is rather confusing as Arrows is at a critical time in its development, carrying huge debts, and would probably benefit from rather more input from Walkinshaw.

 

The team attached a statement (in English) from Cosme Rogeau, the liquidator (dated February 28) addressed to FIA President Max Mosley suggesting that the benefits to the Concorde Agreement were being transferred to Phoenix Finance Ltd. The odd thing about this is that five days later Mosley told The Times newspaper that "we are waiting for an official communication from the purchasers of the Prost assets but they do appear to have major difficulties if they want to join the grid."

 

What happened to the letter from Phoenix to Mosley is not clear. The liquidator was sufficiently worried however to issue two press releases during the Melbourne weekend giving more details of what happened but at no point did he specifically mention the "benefits" of Prost Grand Prix. If the letter revealed in Malaysia had been issued in Melbourne there might not have been a problem with the FIA and it is odd that this did not happen.

 

The FIA issued a statement on March 12 indicating that having examined the judgement of the court of Versailles the FIA decided that the court had not transferred the Prost entry to Phoenix.

 

It seems that the whole sorry business is going to end up in court as a deep embarrassment to the sport as a whole.

 

MARCH 16, 2002

Phoenix disappears...

 

PHOENIX FINANCE LTD., the company at the center of the kerfuffle over the assets of Prost Grand Prix, officially changed its name two days ago to become DART Grand Prix Team Ltd. The name change has been registered at Companies House in London with the same address as Phoenix Finance Ltd.

 

The latest twist in the tale came the day before Phoenix Finance issued a press release to the F1 media in Malaysia, an odd move given that the organization had by then already changed its name - something which presumably the directors of the company must have known. The current wheeling and dealing has left most observers completely confused as to who is trying to do what to whom and why - although no doubt there are reasons for all this.

 

The name change came just two weeks after Phoenix Finance came into existence when a company called CN Europe Ltd. changed its name to Phoenix. This company can be traced back to December 1993 when it was set up as Nickerson Trading Ltd..

 

The most bizarre thing in all this is the fact that Tom Walkinshaw - the man who has been representing Phoenix's interests in recent days in F1 circles - used to have a company called DART in the early 1980s. That firm distributed Dunlop racing tires in Britain (the name standing for Dunlop Auto Racing Tires Ltd.).

 

Walkinshaw says that all he (and his TWR company) are doing is supplying engineering assistance to Phoenix (or whatever the company is called this week).

 

In the meantime the French liquidator Cosme Rogeau has announced plans to auction off the Prost Grand Prix assets in May. The F1 cars left over when Prost went into receivership will be auctioned on May 6 while the team's machinery, tools, furniture and computer equipment will be auctioned on May 15-16-17.

 

 

MARCH 17, 2002

More on D.A.R.T GP...

 

 

THE future of D.A.R.T Grand Prix remains clouded at the moment with interest in the subject waning somewhat in the Formula 1 paddock as most of the team owners seem to have written off the project. Tom Walkinshaw, however, still seems to think that everything is fine and plans are apparently being made for the team to travel to Brazil.

 

A team of 30 mechanics, made up of TWR and Prost GP mechanics, flew to Kuala Lumpur but the cars were impounded by the local customs and so the team members were left with nothing to do and without the right passes they were not even able to get into the paddock - although one or two did drift in during the weekend. It seems that the crew was under the control of longtime TWR employee Ken Page but the word in the paddock was that Tom Walkinshaw stalwart Tony Dowe will take over the running of the team (if it survives). Dowe is reported to have left his current job with the Team Roberts motorcycle organization (leaving this in the hands of another former F1 man Charlie Moody). The 53-year-old from Weston-super-Mare has been working in racing since the mid 1960s and was in F1 in the 1970s before heading to America with the Haas CanAm team in 1980. By the end of 1982 he had become team manager of Newman-Haas Racing and he stayed there until 1987 when he set up TWR Inc. for Walkinshaw, for an assault on the IMSA sportscar title with Jaguar. The team enjoyed numerous successes in the late 1980s and early 1990s but in 1994 Dowe was put in charge of Ligier - which Walkinshaw was then running. After that he switched to Arrows with Walkinshaw but then disappeared off to America again to work for Don Panoz.

 

The future of D.A.R.T is by no means certain at the moment but we expect the next few days to be critical.

 

MARCH 18, 2002

Phoenix reappears...

 

HAVING changed its company name from Phoenix Finance Ltd. to D.A.R.T. Grand Prix Team Limited the other day, the buyer of some of Prost Grand Prix's assets (which appears to be an organization owned by Charles Nickerson) has now changed its name back to Phoenix Finance Ltd. again.

 

The Formula 1 circus has become so confused as to what is going on that no-one is really very interested any more and everyone is waiting for the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting on Wednesday. This is expected to rule once and for all on whether or not Phoenix/D.A.R.T/Nickerson has an entry or not. The official papers relating the transaction on February 28 between Phoenix and the liquidator make no mention of the entry being transferred although on March 15 Nickerson responded to the FIA's announcement that "the court has not transferred Prost Grand Prix itself nor made any attempt to transfer the Prost Grand Prix entry in the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship, either to Phoenix Finance Ltd. or to Charles Nickerson" by issuing a letter addressed to FIA President Max Mosley and signed by the liquidator Cosme Rogeau and by Nickerson himself which seemed to indicate that the "benefits" of the Concorde Agreement had been transferred. This was dated February 28.

 

The FIA said unofficially that this document had been received but that it had no legal value and therefore had no relevance to the issue. French journalists, keen to unravel what is going on, have been pursuing Rogeau to try to establish when this document was signed and why it was not included in the original sale document. Prost's creditors are also said to be asking for a judicial review of what has been happening because they are not happy with the job that the liquidator has been doing.

 

One of the major problems seems to be that Rogeau does not speak good enough English and may not understand everything that has been going on (which is not surprising in the circumstances).

 

Things have been greatly complicated by the constantly-shifting sands and the exact sequence of events is not entirely clear although it seems that as soon as Phoenix bought the Prost assets on February 28 the company name was changed to D.A.R.T Grand Prix Team Ltd.. The day after the FIA announced that Phoenix Finance Ltd. was not entered in the 2002 World Championship the name of the company was then changed back to Phoenix Finance Ltd. again.

 

If the FIA World Council rules against Phoenix (and/or D.A.R.T) then the next course of action for Nickerson would be the FIA International Court of Appeal. If that ruled against the organization, the only option would be civil action but there are many precedents which state that the federation has the right to do as it pleases so long as the rules are legal. The FIA recently gained clearance from the European Commission for its rules and regulations so there is not an obvious case there for Phoenix/D.A.R.T/Nickerson.

 

The question now being asked is why Nickerson (or whoever it is who owns Phoenix/D.A.R.T) is so desperate to get the entry when it is clear that the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone and the other signatories of the Concorde Agreement are all fundamentally opposed to the deal as it would create dangerous precedents for Formula 1 racing.

 

If Phoenix/D.A.R.T is so keen to compete and has the money to do it, surely it would be wiser to enter the 2003 World Championship in the normal way - with a downpayment of $48m which is then refunded with interest as the season progresses. The only obvious answer to this is that the team does not have the money to do that - and if that is the case there is not much point in competing this year as the team is not going to have anywhere near enough money to do the job. Even Minardi is believed to be spending $50m a year these days.

 

Judging by the fact that the team cannot use Prost facilities in France and does not have its own headquarters (as the Arrows workshops at Leafield should be flat out doing Arrows work) it would seem to be the wisest course of action for Phoenix would be to take a few months to set itself up properly and then enter the World Championship in the normal way in November.

 

But, of course, there is probably a lot more to it than that as nothing in this story is as it seems to be...

MARCH 27, 2002

Will the MSA back a Phoenix appeal?

 

THE most interesting question in recent days in racing circles is whether the Motor Sport Association in Britain will support an application to the FIA International Court of Appeal on behalf of Charles Nickerson's supposed F1 team (known as either Phoenix or DART GP). The International Court Appeal will not hear an appeal unless it is presented by the national sporting authority of the entrant. This system was introduced to stop teams making multiple appeals to the FIA.

 

The big question is whether MSA legal counsel will consider an appeal worthwhile as there is little evidence to back up the claims made by Phoenix. If the MSA refuses to take a case to the FIA it is conceivable that whoever is behind Phoenix might try to take legal action against either the FIA or the MSA. However there is not much of a legal case against either organization.

 

MARCH 28, 2002

Can the FIA be challenged in court?

 

THE issues raised by the Phoenix Finance Ltd. bid to take over some of the assets of Prost Grand Prix are interesting and raise the question of whether or not the FIA can be challenged for any decisions it makes. On the one hand this is very clear: the FIA is a club in which competitors are members and they accept the regulations as they are and thus cannot challenge them in civil courts. This principal has been established with a series of legal actions, notably a case in Hamburg in 1969. Eleven years later the federation was faced with a challenge to its sovereignty when no less a figure than Bernie Ecclestone (then representing FOCA) talked about opening "the whole can of worms in auto racing worldwide over the legal status of the governing body". A few weeks later Max Mosley, then the FOCA legal advisor, announced the foundation of the World Federation of Motor Sport - a rival governing body to the FIA.

 

This powerful challenge came to nothing because Mosley and Ecclestone realized that they could do nothing to beat the FIA boss Jean-Marie Balestre and so a compromise - known as the Concorde Agreement - was reached in March 1981. This established a way to settle disputes between the signatories and the only challenges to the FIA power in relation to F1 after that came from Tyrrell in 1984, which tried (and failed) to stop itself being thrown out of the World Championship, and in 1985 when the Automobile Club de Monaco tried to force the FIA to annul its decision to kick the Monaco GP out of the World Championship.

 

Where there is a "grey area" is when there are commercial implications of an FIA decision. Peugeot challenged the FIA over the decision to ban Group B rallying and the French firm won the case but then lost the victory after an FIA appeal.

 

Ecclestone touched on this is 1980 when he accused the federation of being "contrary to the anti-trust laws in the United States, the equivalent provisions of the Treaty of Rome and similar legislation elsewhere." The irony of these comments was that in recent times Ecclestone and the FIA (under Mosley) have spent several years fighting with the European Commission over the line that must be drawn between sport and business. This process has now been completed and the European Commission has ruled that the FIA's rules and regulations are now acceptable. This most recent ruling is really the nail in the coffin of anyone wanting to challenge the FIA from a legal standpoint. The federation has its International Court of Appeal (which the European Union says it is happy with) and the signatories of the Concorde Agreement have a system of arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce in Lausanne. This leaves limited room for legal action.

 

APRIL 2, 2002

Phoenix is still out there

 

THE PHOENIX FINANCE bid for recognition is still not dead, according to paddock rumors in Brazil. The team, made up of a number of ex-Prost employees and some TWR men, is still considering making an appearance at Imola and it seems rather than trying to take legal action to force the issue, the aim of the Phoenix Finance company is to get all the team bosses to agree that Phoenix be allowed to compete. This is not likely to happen. Tom Walkinshaw spent a lot of his time during the Brazilian GP weekend going from team to team trying to convince the team bosses that it was a good idea but not all of them were very positive and one or two remain decidedly hostile.

 

There are unconfirmed reports that Walkinshaw even asked Craig Pollock to represent Phoenix Finance Ltd. although we understand that Pollock has not plans to take that course of action.

 

 

APRIL 4, 2002

Pollock and Phoenix/DART

 

THERE have been rumors in recent days suggesting that Craig Pollock will be joining the Phoenix Finance Ltd. bid to turn a few assets of the defunct Prost Grand Prix into a Formula 1 team. Questioned on the subject in Brazil, Pollock said that he was not involved in the project and said he had no interest in being so but he did not deny that he had been approached. Given that he spent a lot of time during the Interlagos weekend talking to Tom Walkinshaw it is fair to say that the approach came from the Arrows F1 boss, who has been representing the interests of Phoenix in the last few weeks.

 

It is worth noting also that stories suggesting that former TWR USA boss Tony Dowe is involved in Phoenix are also not correct. Dowe has left his job with Team Roberts in motorcycle racing but he is not going to join the Phoenix operation.

 

The future of the planned team remains clouded by a string of different issues which all seem to add up to make it impossible for the team to get off the ground, but there continue to be suggestions that the team will knock on the gate at Imola and asked to be allowed into the paddock.

APRIL 9, 2002

Phoenix to go legal

 

WE hear from inside sources of the Arrows team that Phoenix Finance Ltd. (which has nothing to do with Arrows apart from the fact that Tom Walkinshaw is for some reason representing their interests) will shortly file law suits in the High Court in London against the various parties involved in denying Phoenix an entry in this year's FIA Formula 1 World Championship. The FIA and other parties (which may include the other signatories to the Concorde Agreement) ruled that Phoenix (and/or D.A.R.T Ltd., which was the company name for a brief moment) did not buy the Prost Grand Prix entry for the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship and therefore could not compete.

 

Phoenix is apparently seeking damages. The legal action will no doubt drag on for months and will probably involve complicated arguments about the differences between British and French law. The fact remains, however, that the international automobile federation has a long and successful record of defending legal attacks on its right to make decisions. The most notable being in the Appeal Court in Paris in April 1988 when the court ruled that the federation is "the only organizer of international events".

 

At the time the FIA President Jean-Marie Balestre said that the decision "establishes that the federation has an independence which allows it to make decisions with total autonomy". This principal was upheld during the recent European Commission investigation into the rules and regulations of the FIA.

 

In the 1988 case, the judge ruled that the claimant, Automobiles Peugeot (represented at the time by Jean Todt), had to pay all the legal costs, which amounted to several millions of French Francs as the case dragged on for 19 months.

 

Phoenix and its representatives might possibly end up being penalized under Article 151c of the International Sporting Code which states that "any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally" can be penalized by the FIA.

 

Article 25e of the FIA Statutes empowers the World Council to apply penalties to any licence-holder who has contravened the statutes and regulations; pursued an objective contrary or opposed to those of the FIA and who has refused to abide by decisions of the FIA.

Edited by Patresalboretangelis

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Credo che il Team Phoenix sia una delle novit? pi? rilevanti degli ultimi dieci anni. Secondo voi raggiungeranno un posto da primato o rimarranno sempre nelle retrovie?

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ma non hanno mai corso e mai correranno...

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