JULY 29, 1996
The end of the road for Forti?
The deal was announced at the Spanish Grand Prix in early June but was not concluded until June 30 when the two parties signed an agreement in Milan for Shannon to take over 51% of the team. The agreement stipulated that Shannon had six days in which to pay and this deadline was not met. The result of this was that neither Forti nor Shannon paid Cosworth and so the Italian team had no engines at Silverstone. In the end a compromise was hammered out in which Cosworth allowed the Fortis to do a handful of laps so as not to run into trouble with the FIA for failing to appear at a race.
The negotiations continued between the British and German GPs and Forti turned up in Hockenheim in a similar situation. After talks with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone it was decided that the team should withdraw from the meeting - and face a large fine from the FIA. Forti then announced this plan, outlining that the agreement with Shannon had fallen through and that he was back in control of the team. The team intended to finalize several sponsorship deals including one with a big Asia-Pacific banking company and would be back in Hungary.
Shannon then announced that it was still the owner of 51% of the team and wanted to continue "to solve the financial and economic problems of the company". Shannon added that it intended to replace Guido Forti immediately.
Forti replied that as no money had changed hands the deal had not been completed and was thus over. It seems that the entire matter will end up in the Italian courts and this will be hugely damaging for the team. The only way it is likely to be able to survive is if a quick solution can be found.
The team's new technical director George Ryton is not at all happy with the situation and is thought to be threatening to quit if the mess is not sorted out quickly.
There are rumors that the FIA is not at all happy about what is happening with the team and may take action. In 1992, it should be remembered, the FIA took the unusual step of throwing Andrea Moda Formula out of the World Championship for bringing the sport into disrepute.