What is happening at BAR

Takuma Sato, Japanese GP 2004

Takuma Sato, Japanese GP 2004 

 © The Cahier Archive

As we exclusively predicted yesterday, there are serious moves going on between Honda and British American Tobacco regarding the sale of the BAR-Honda team to the Japanese automaker. The rumours suggest that David Richards will stand down as team principal and Nick Fry, who is currently the team's managing-director, will take over. Richards has plenty to do with his other companies, including the World Rally Championship and the new Aston Martin sports car project, and has said for some years that he had plans to slow down and enjoy family life a little more. Richards has achieved what he set out to do with BAR and it is now a question of the deal that is concluded with Honda. It is possible that Honda will own the whole team but there is also a possibility that Prodrive could have a shareholding. The company specializes in presenting teams for manufacturers, minimising the risks for the car companies involved. The company has long operated the Subaru World Rally Team for Fuji Heavy Industries, while the Aston Martin programme is not funded nor owned by Ford, the company which owns Aston Martin. It is entirely possible that a similar deal will develop with Honda.

It is unlikely that Honda is going its own way without Prodrive, if only because in addition to his F1 role, Nick Fry is also the managing director of the entire Prodrive company. Fry is a high-flyer who was managing-director of Ford subsidiary Aston Martin before being recruited by David Richards in 2001. Under his guidance Prodrive has boomed, becoming one of the world's most successful motorsport and vehicle technology businesses, generating over $160m in turnover per annum and employing close to 1000 people worldwide.

Fry joined Ford after graduating in economics from the University of Wales in 1977. In 1992 he was appointed as the director of operations at Aston Martin, which Ford was in the process of trying to sort out. He coordinated the reorganisation of the firm and the DB7 programme before being promoted in 1997 to become the brand manager of large cars at Ford Europe and then as business director for the Cologne-based firm. He moved to Prodrive in 2001 as MD of Prodrive Automotive Technology and a year later became group managing director.

It remains to be seen whether Honda will gradually take over the team or whether it will remain a Prodrive-run operation.

BAT was planning to leave the sport in 2006 but the new British anti-tobacco advertising laws which come into effect at the end of July 2005 have accelerated the process. The sale of the company has yet to be discussed by the board of BAR but this is not really a surprise as the deal has been done much higher up in the corporate food chain.

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