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Shannon arrives early!

THE mysterious Shannon Racing Team - which was expected to enter F1 in 1998 - took everyone by surprise by turning up at the Spanish Grand Prix as sponsors for the Forti team.

The deal is for the rest of this season with an option to continue next year, and we expect that there will be changes in the Forti ownership within a matter of months as Shannon is expected to want to own the team.

Forti is currently owned by Guido Forti and his partner Carlo Gancia, although there are also a number of other smaller shareholders involved.

The Shannon deal was announced by Aaron Colombo - who is the boss of the carbon fiber company Belco-Avia - rather than by Guido Forti or a member of the Shannon management. This curious arrangement appears to have come about because Forti owes Belco-Avia and that Colombo has put the two parties together so as to get his money.

Shannon Racing Team is registered in Dublin, Ireland, and is a subsidiary of another Dublin-registered company called FinFirst, which, according to a press release is an Italian industrial and financial group, which has decided to use the sport to spread its name internationally. It is owned by a German Pole called Ben Gartz.

Among the businesses owned by Shannon are the Sokol helicopter company - which is understood to have links with the Sukhoi helicopter company in Russia.

The arrival of Shannon has resulted in a couple of other changes at Forti. The team's sporting director Cesare Fiorio has been replaced by the current managing-director Daniele Coronna, which has allowed Fiorio to return to Ligier, where he was expected to start work on behalf of Flavio Briatore in July. Last weekend, therefore, Fiorio was back in Ligier team gear.

Forti has also confirmed the arrival of ex-Ferrari designer George Ryton - as we suggested some months ago. Ryton is planning to spend the next couple of weeks analyzing the data of the new FG03/96 before deciding what to do. The team has already bought the remains of the Tyrrell development project with Fondmetal Technologies and will use some of the wings which were developed in the Casumaro windtunnel in Italy. The team is expected to have the first changes - completely new bodywork, wings and undertrays - in time for the British GP in mid-July.

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