PEOPLE: WATARU OHASHI
Name: Wataru Ohashi
A graduate of Kansei Gakuin University, Ohashi joined the Nihon Unsou transport company after he left college in 1970. He worked his up through the business. In 1981 he put together a deal for seven transport companies to begin a courier service in Japan and in 1984 this company, originally called Zen Nippon Ryutsu, became Footwork. Nihon Unsou, the dominant partner in the business, also changed its name to Footwork with Ohashi becoming chairman of that business. The business diversified with amazing speed in the 1980s moving into restaurants, drink, mail order and even construction activities. The company also embarked on rapid international expansion, initially in Hawaii and Korea but then in the United States and Britain. In December 1986 Footwork was listed on the Osaka stock exchange. As part of the international expansion in 1988 Ohashi became the sponsor of the Formula 3000 Mooncraft team, which was running Aguri Suzuki in Japan and later in selected European races. At the end of 1989 Ohashi bought the Arrows F1 team from Jackie Oliver and Alan Rees. It was too late to do much for the 1990 season and the result was a botched together A11B, driven by Michele Alboreto and Alex Caffi. Ohashi however agreed to fund a new Porsche V12 engine and that was due to arrive in 1991. Alan Jenkins was signed to be the new technical director and the team seemed to be moving in the right direction. The Porsche engines were not a success and then when the new Footwork FA12 appeared it suffered a suspension failure in Tamburello Corner at Imola and was destroyed. A second new car was badly damaged at Monaco by Caffi. By June the team had reached the conclusion that the Porsche engine was a flop and did a deal to use Brian Hart-prepared Cosworth DFRs instead. The poor results meant that the team had by then dropped into pre-qualifying but things recovered in 1992 with Suzuki's arrival giving the team a supply of Mugen engines. The new car was a good one and the team finished a respectable seventh in the Constructors' Championship. The 1993 season was not as good and at the end of the year Ohashi was forced by his shareholders to stop spending money on racing. Mugen departed and the team struggled badly but it was not until the end of 1994 that Oliver and Rees were in a position to buy back their shares from Ohashi.
Footwork's dreams of building a global courier business were slowed by the economic problems in the early 1990s and the company eventually failed in 2001. This led to the arrest of Ohashi and five others at the end of that year with prosecutors claiming that they had conspired to "pad out" the company's figures for several years in the 1990s in order to secure bank loans. The case against Ohashi is still outstanding.