Honda website
Honda website

SEPTEMBER 28, 1998

BAR in trouble...

BRITISH AMERICAN RACING has been having a very bumpy ride in recent days with the Formula 1 Commission deciding to torpedo the team's plans to run cars in different liveries. We have also heard stories of financial problems and we have even heard that BAR managing-director Craig Pollock has sold his shareholding in the team to American CART team owner Jerry Forsythe.

BAR is half-owned by British American Tobacco and the team has been spending vast sums of money in recent months to build up a completely new racing organization. We understand, however, that the budget from BAT is delivered every two months after a meeting assessing progress, and we believe that at the most recent meeting it was decided to pull back a little on some expenditures. We hear that this includes circuit signage and the sponsorship of races in Asia. In operational terms, however, the team does not appear to be suffering.

This may change when the full implications of the F1 Commission decision are felt. BAR had been planning to run two cars in different liveries, one using BAT's 555 State Express branding and the other in Lucky Strike colors. As we understand it, the budget was coming from two distinct sources: BAT itself and Brazilian cigarette distributor Souza Cruz. This explains the team's need to sign up a Brazilian driver to keep the South Americans happy. There were, however, disputes between the various brand managers as to which car Jacques Villeneuve would drive, with BAT wanting him in the Lucky Strike car and the South Americans wanting him in 555 colors.

At the very least the new regulation will do serious damage to the status of Pollock - who had pioneered the idea of twin liveries and appears to have thought that he had the political clout to make it happen. What he does not appear to have appreciated is that in 1994 the F1 team bosses agreed between themselves that teams should run two identical cars, simply to ensure that the show looked professional and the public was not confused by too many different brands.

It is therefore interesting that in the days before the Formula 1 Commission met, BAR announced the arrival of Jerry Forsythe as a new director and shareholder in the team. Initially it was thought that Forsythe had been brought in to replace the departed Julian Jakobi, but our spies in the organization tell us that Jakobi did not have a shareholding in the team and that the shares which Forsythe has acquired - rumored to be 37% of the team - are actually those which belonged to Pollock. We understand that the Scotsman has made tens of millions of dollars as a result of the deal.

Whether or not this will see him slide into the background at the team or maintain his current high profile remains to be seen. It will also be interesting to see whether or not Forsythe will develop into the boss of the team. Forsythe was due to appear at the Luxembourg GP but did not arrive although the Forsythe Racing PR chief Roger Elliott was there.

Forsythe has been involved in racing since the early 1980s when he ran March chassis in CART for the likes of Teo Fabi. He then took six years out of racing to build up his Indeck business but returned to racing in 1993, joining forces with BarryƊGreen to run Jacques Villeneuve in the Toyota Atlantic series. The following year the team moved to CART with Villeneuve, won at Road America and took the Rookie of the Year title. In 1995 the team won the CART title and the Indianapolis 500. Villeneuve then headed to Europe and Forsythe and Green split up, each forming their own teams.

Forsythe is currently running Greg Moore and Patrick Carpentier in CART and planning to run a third car with different sponsorship in CART next season. Forsythe has also just won the 1998 Formula Atlantic title with Lee Bentham.

The ban on multiple liveries may play into the hands of Arrows boss Tom Walkinshaw who has been negotiating in recent weeks to land support from BAT for his team. We do not expect Tom to sell the team although there have been rumors suggesting that this might happen.