MARCH 20, 1995

Larrousse to miss opening GPs

The Junior Team Larrousse F1 operation will not be in Brazil this week and is also likely to miss the Argentine GP in a fortnight. For the last few months Gerard Larrousse has been juggling to survive and his deal with Jean Messaoudi and Laurent Barlesi came too late to have new cars ready. The possibility existed of converting the 1994 chassis to 1995 specification but this would have been expensive, difficult to achieve (given the rigorous new FIA crash-testing regulations) and would have resulted in cars which would have been hopelessly uncompetitive.

The other option was to miss the first two races and pay FIA fines imposed on teams which undertake to compete but then fail to arrive for races and then arrive at Imola at the end of April with brand new 1995 cars. To this end Larrousse has been trying to convince the FIA that it is best to waive the fines - which could amount to as much as $2 million - so as to maintain a full grid of cars.

In the meantime work is supposedly continuing to build the 1995 cars. The design comes from the former Larrousse UK Ltd drawing offices and is being built by composite specialists at the SNPE factory at Lille, in northern France.

Despite all this, there are still serious doubts as to whether Larrousse will be seen racing this year. Cosworth Engineering and other suppliers have not been paid for their work in past seasons and are not happy to supply the new operation. At the same time there are indications from France that the team does not have as much money as it would like people to believe, and that it was bargaining on the French government supporting its efforts. French prime minister Edouard Balladur has now announced that there would be no money for Larrousse.

As Larrousse continues to try to find money, the team is keeping up the appearance of being a serious operation. Last week it was announced that 28-year-old Christophe Bouchut, French Formula 3 Champion of 1991, will be a Larrousse driver this year - thanks to his links with Jean Messaoudi.

Bouchut did well early in his career but was then dropped rapidly by Marlboro and later by Peugeot. Clearly not a bad driver, the word is that Bouchut has a rather inflated view of his own ability. Eric Bernard is tipped to be the man most likely to be the other Larrousse driver - if the team survives.