JANUARY 1, 2000

Manwaring fronts bid for Arrows

FORMER Tyrrell and Honda team director Rupert Manwaring is fronting a bid to buy the Arrows team.

FORMER Tyrrell and Honda team director Rupert Manwaring is fronting a bid to buy the Arrows team. The 43-year-old Englishman, who has been involved in Formula 1 since he began working as a spares man for the Surtees team inÊ1977,Êis representing a consortium which has raised $40m and is now trying to buy a 51% shareholding in the team and a 12-month option to buy the remaining 49%. The consortium is believed to include European media and technology companies and was previously involved in a bid to buy Minardi. This forced Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica to take up its option to buy the Italian team.

There is no doubt that around 30% of the Arrows team is for sale at the moment, MGPE having asked the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank to act as a broker in the sale of some of its shares. At the moment Walkinshaw and MGPE each own 45% of the team. The remaining 10% - which was destined to go to Prince Malik ado Ibrahim - is owned by neither but is under their joint control. MGPE might be convinced to sell its 50% if the profit on the deal is sufficient, but to gain full control the consortium would need to acquire some of Walkinshaw's shares. We understand that the consortium has additional investment money for capital expenditure and running costs for the 2000 season and would install a new racing director (presumably Manwaring) and other top management. The racing team would remain largely the same as it now is.

It is worth noting that after the death of Harvey Postlethwaite there was a concerted attempt by Manwaring and other the members of the Honda Racing Developments team to keep the operation together under new ownership. This failed but a lot of the staff moved to Arrows, notably team manager Steve Nielsen.

It is also thought that Jos Verstappen - who test drove for HRD - may be involved in the bid. The Dutchman is understood to have found a considerable amount of backing in recent months and buying a share in a team is a great deal more cost-effective than handing over the money as sponsorship.

Another man who could be involved at some time in the future is Paul Stoddart of the European Racing Formula 3000 team. This organization recently became the Arrows Junior Team and began doing production work for the F1 team. Stoddart was introduced to F1 by Manwaring and was to have been involved with HRD. Stoddart is not believed to be part of the consortium but would be able to help out his old Tyrrell associates if the deal does go through.

The consortium is understood to have the support of Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone - Manwaring worked for Ecclestone when Bernie was running Brabham. Reports that financier Nicky Samengo-Turner of Pall Mall Capital Partners is involved in the deal do not appear to be correct although he may be helping the consortium find additional investment.

The problem is that there is no reason why Walkinshaw should sell his share of the team. He uses it to promote his TWR automotive engineering business and would therefore be asking a high price for the shares. Having said that, Tom may conclude that after a series of efforts in F1 it is better to take the money and stand back and perhaps return to F1 later in a stronger position with another team. He has done that once already when he dumped a deal with Ligier in favor of the purchase of Arrows and may do it again if it makes financial sense.