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Goodbye Mastercard Lola

THE Mastercard Lola F1 team - which entered Grand Prix racing just a few weeks ago in Melbourne has withdrawn from the World Championship with immediate effect. The team cited "financial and technical" problems as the reason for the sudden withdrawal which has left Brazilian Ricardo Rosset and Italian Vincenzo Sospiri without drives.

The Mastercard Lolas ran in qualifying for the Australian GP but were more than 10 secs off the pace of the front-runners, although Lola engineers said that with a little more testing that gap could be reduced dramatically.

The problem appears to be that the team needed money immediately but Mastercard, which was planning to fund the team using membership of an exclusive club of Mastercard holders with access to special privileges. The aim was to launch the idea in February but it seems that some of the 22,000 financial institutions which issue Mastercards did not want to be involved.

HSBC, for example, sponsors Stewart Grand Prix and it was thought unlikely to allow the banks it controls to let Lola raise money from its customers to fund a rival F1 team.

The intention was for Lola Cars to fund a considerable part of the F1 project itself before the Mastercard money - estimated at $10m a year - began to arrive. It transpires that the program ate up more money than anticipated and the company's financial managers warned that Lola Cars itself would be in jeopardy if more money could not be raised. Attempts to find additional sponsors failed and Broadley was forced to make the difficult decision, faced with a bill for engines from Cosworth for the Australian GP.

Lola sources say that Lola will not give up the idea of being in Grand Prix racing in the future but that this can only happen if the package is right. Rosset and Sospiri are both looking for work with the Brazilian tipped as a possible test driver with Benson & Hedges Jordan Peugeot.

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