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Minardi on sale again?

OUR spies in Italy tell us that the Minardi team may not complete its deal with the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica. The two companies announced that they were in negotiations in October last year but nearly six months later the deal has still to be completed and we hear that Telefonica's option to buy the team may have run out. If this is the case there are likely to be several groups in the running to snatch the little Italian team. Last autumn there were at least two groups bidding against Telefonica for Minardi.

The two known bidders were a group led by US automotive parts magnate Tony Johnson and a European technology consortium involving the Dutch software company ICL. This group is being fronted by former Tyrrell commercial manager Rupert Manwaring.

It remains to be seen whether Telefonica will allow Minardi to slip through its fingers but there has been little sign of any conclusion to the talks in recent months, during which Spaniard Joan Villadelprat and Giancarlo Minardi have each been trying to convince Telefonica that they should run the team and the other should not be involved. Villadelprat's idea was to rename the team and relocate the entire operation to Barcelona while Minardi argued that the organization should remain in Italy and that Telefonica should build on the already well-established Minardi brand.

Telefonica is running an identical car to the Minardi in CART this year with one of Cal Well's Precision Preparation Inc. Motorsports Reynard-Toyotas for Oriol Servia.

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