Honda website
Honda website

APRIL 29, 2002

An interesting visitor...

THE Spanish Grand Prix paddock was rather short on A-list celebrities, despite the usual rumors that Robert de Niro, Nicholas Cage and others would be turning up and Mexico's answer to Madonna did little to raise the glamorous image of the sport - although perhaps it will end up helping the 30-year-old Mexican's stellar progress.

Luckily the King of Spain is a big race fan and so Bernie Ecclestone had someone to wander around the grid with before the start of the race.

There were however a lot of significant visitors to the paddock one of which was an Austrian called Stefan Pierer, who is the owner of the Austrian motorcycle company KTM. The firm has been around since the 1930s and is best known for its offroad bike business and for its incredible success on the Paris-Dakar Rally. But what is most interesting about it is that it is hugely successful at the moment. It has doubled its turnover to $230m in the course of the last two years and made a profit of $20m last year. It is currently involved in an aggressive expansion program in the United States while also building a new engine factory and research and development center at its headquarters in Mattighofen, Austria.

Once listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange KTM went private two years ago with the finance for the deal supplied by Deutsche Bank and its biggest current sponsorship is with the Red Bull company in the United States market, Red Bull being located just a few miles down the road from KTM headquarters in Mattighofen.

Red Bull, as we know, is big on its US marketing program with Eddie Cheever's team running Tom Walkinshaw's Infiniti engines in the Indy Racing League. Red Bull is also a sponsor of Walkinshaw in Formula 1 and supports a Formula 3000 team being run by Dr. Helmut Marko, a former F1 driver.

It may just be a coincidence that Deutsche Bank is also a major shareholder in Arrows (although the complicated corporate structure does make it difficult to work it all out).

The other point worthy of mention is that KTM's corporate color is orange.

This remarkable series of coincidences would seem to add up to a news story about Kronreif, Trunkenpolz, Mattighofen (KTM) somehow becoming involved in a Formula 1 team.