Minardi sale draws closer

AS we have been predicting for some days Minardi will be sold to Australian businessman Paul Stoddart of the European Aviation Group, probably after the weekend. If all goes to plan Stoddart will become the chairman and team principal of the Italian operation, bringing to an end Gabriele Rumi's involvement with Minardi.

The team's founder Giancarlo Minardi is expected to remain a director and rumours suggest that he will be responsible for organising a driver development scheme.

A large delegation from European flew to Italy this week and it is believed that among the group was former Tyrrell commercial director Rupert Manwaring who is expected to take a leading role in the new organisation. The initial plan seems to be not to disrupt the Minardi organisation too much. Stoddart and Manwaring were both involved with Tyrrell after the takeover of the team by British American Racing and do not want to repeat the mistakes made by BAR in destroying what was a very good little team at Tyrrell. The old Tyrrell influence in the new Minardi operation is expected to be fairly obvious although some of the high profile engineers and managers have ended up at Benetton.

The Minardi facility in Faenza and the European factory in Ledbury are expected to work together to get things ready for the new season and with Stoddart having no shortage of aircraft to fly backwards and forwards between the two bases the organisation should run fairly smoothly as the team rushes to get two completed cars to Australia.

According to our sources the new Minardi - which we expect to be called something like the PS01 - is well-advanced as the team has continued to operate despite the uncertainty under technical director Gustav Brunner and team manager Frederic Dhainaut. Both men are expected to remain with the team, as will George Ryton, a former Tyrrell engineer, who has been running the Faenza drawing office in recent years.

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