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AUGUST 28, 2006

Midland, Spyker and folks from the Middle East

Any Formula 1 reporter will tell you that one has to be a bit careful about rumours that come from Holland. There is huge enthusiasm for the sport in the country and sometimes that relates to wild reports. But our sources around the world say that reports that the Dutch car company Spyker is involved in the buyout of the Midland F1 team should be taken seriously. For nearly a year now a consortium from Holland has been trying to get hold of an F1 franchise. This time last year we heard the first rumours of a bid for Minardi by Michiel Mol, the owner of the Lost Boys company and financiers Peter Jan Rubingh, Roel Kooijman and Joep van den Nieuwenhuizen. Kooijman is the father of Christijan Albers's girlfriend Liselore and the deal was seen as a way to maintain Albers's F1 career. In the end Minardi was sold to Red Bull but the Dutch remained active and moved on to a plan to buy Midland.

The Spyker rumours may sound a little far-fetched but closer investigation reveals that they should be taken seriously.

Spyker dates back to 1880 when Jacobus and Hendrik-Jan Spijker set up a coach-building business. They built their first cars in 1898 and were involved in competition from an early stage. The original company went bankrupt after Hendrik-Jan Spijker drowned in a shipwreck in 1907 but the name lived on until 1929 when a series of attempts to revive the business failed.

Spyker was not revived again until 1999 when businessman Victor Muller, who had made money in shipping and fashion, set up a new Spyker with engineer Maarten de Bruijn. The company has been building up gradually since then and was listed on the Amsterdam Euronext Exchange in 2004. In November 2005 Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Company acquired 17% of the firm and since then Spyker has expanded its range of models and its involvement in sport with the factory team, known as the Spyker Squadron entering two Spyker C8 Spyders in a programme of 10 endurance races.

Mubadala is a company that is interested in F1. Last year with bought a 5% shareholding in the Ferrari company and is in the process of building a Ferrari-themed leisure park in Abu Dhabi.

The word is that the team will start out next year with Cosworth V8 engines but obviously in the longer term there is potential for the team to become a secondary Ferrari operation as the rules in 2008 will allow teams to buy and sell chassis. The stories we are hearing suggest that as part of the deal the current team principal Colin Kolles will stay on, at least in the short term. It is safe to assume with this scenario that one of the drivers next year would be Christijan Albers.