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The twelfth team

THERE is not going to be a twelfth Formula 1 team based around the Honda Racing Developments operation. Our sources in Japan tell us that the Honda Motor Company has decided not to let go of the facility in Bracknell and now intends to use it as an engine-building and development center for the forthcoming Formula 1 project with British American Racing.

A few of the HRD staff will be retained - if they can be convinced to stay - but the rest are expected to go to other teams. At the moment, however, everyone is waiting to see how much compensation Honda is willing to pay and that has delayed the break-up.

The news is going to have a serious effect on the number of groups bidding to run the twelfth F1 team as there are only a few organizations capable of producing a Formula 1 car in time for the start of the 2000 season in Malaysia in February next year. Dallara in Italy, Britain's Lola and possibly Paul Stoddart's European Formula Racing operation in Ledbury, Herefordshire, are the only organizations which might be able to pull it off. Stoddart remains a player because he owns all the old Tyrrell F1 equipment which he bought when the team was closed down at the end of last season. His 60,000 sq. ft. facility will soon have its own seven post rig and work will begin shortly on the construction of a state-of-the-art windtunnel.

Our sources say that Lola is not likely to be a player as it is currently heavily involved in building up its market in CART racing in the United States. Dallara has been involved in the production of the prototype Honda F1 test car but shows little interest in getting further involved.

Stoddart says that he has no plans to enter F1 by himself. The most likely scenario, therefore, is that one of the groups with money available will now try to get together with a technical organization to form the new team. We have heard that David Hunt - the man trying to revive Lotus - has been spotted at the European Formula Racing headquarters but no-one will confirm that contact has been made. Any new team would be expected to use Supertec V10 engines - as these are the only ones available.

Time is running out - particularly with the early start to the 2000 season having been announced by the FIA - and a decision is needed very quickly if anyone is going to be in a position to take over the twelfth spot.

The entry is controlled by the FIA and we understand that the governing body is demanding a bond of $25m for the 12th slot, to ensure that any new team is a serious player and has the money to do the job.

Among others who have been linked to plans for a 12th team are Zakspeed - which tried to buy Arrows last winter - Toyota, Prodrive and John Macdonald. The former RAM F1 boss turned up in France last weekend in the company of ex-BAR team manager Greg Field, creating further speculation that he is planning to make a move.

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