JANUARY 30, 2001
Stoddart buys Minardi
Stoddart and Manwaring worked together at Tyrrell after the team was taken over by British American Racing and know how destructive it can be to announce the closure of a factory, and so intend to keep Faenza operating as normal. This will give Stoddart the time to finish the construction of his windtunnel at Ledbury. The half-scale rolling road facility is already designed and a building is already completed to house it so it could be operational within a year. Production of parts for the cars will be done in both factories while the race team will remain in Faenza. In the longer term it is likely that all operations will be moved to England but at the moment the new owners do not want to waste the skill and experience available in Italy.
As expected the engines will be called European V10s and will be versions of the 1998 Ford V10. Stoddart is hoping that these engines will be upgraded in the course of the season by engineers working at Robert Langford's preparation firm in Wellingborough. Although there are no official links with Cosworth, the engineers working with Langford, led by Mark Parish, are all Cosworth men, who previously worked on Cosworth's F1 customer engine program.
The team has yet to confirm who will drive but we expect Spain's Fernando Alonso to be one of the drivers. He has substantial sponsorship available. Enrique Bernoldi is another option but the Brazilian is currently trying hard to get an Arrows drive as Tom Walkinshaw is having trouble agreeing terms with Pedro de la Rosa's sponsor Repsol-YPF. This could open the way for de la Rosa to drive for Stoddart. Pedro and Stoddart know each other well as the European boss was an Arrows sponsor last year. We hear that there is also the possibility of a young Dutch driver who has considerable sponsorship behind him. It is unclear who this might be but it could be European's Formula 3000 driver Christjian Albers or perhaps the 1998 Italian Formula 3 Champion Donny Crevels.
For the interim the race is on to get things ready for Australia and the team is being very careful about making any claims about how they will perform.
"It is undoubtedly a huge challenge but everyone is up for it," said Stoddart. "We do not underestimate the enormity of the task ahead of us but the logistical issues involved in operating factories in two different countries are eased considerably by the fact that European has its own airline and can do things at a pace that other companies would find impossible."
The first Minardi-European PS01 is now nearing completion in Faenza. This is the work of the Minardi technical team led by Gustav Brunner, which includes Gabriele Tredozi and George Ryton.