APRIL 17, 1995

Hope fades for Larrousse

The Larrousse Formula 1 team says it will be at Imola for the San Marino GP at the end of this month, but it looks increasingly likely that the team will not be seen in action - at least not in 1995.

While the team has told the French press that all is well and that ex-Ferrari/McLaren designer Steve Nichols is building up 1995-spec cars to appear at Imola, neither Ford nor Cosworth seem to be doing anything about an engine supply.

At the recent Argentine GP, Ford's F1 boss Peter Gillitzer made it quite clear that if Larrousse wants to do business, the ground rules are set - "No money, no engine," he said. It seems hard to believe that the team is really expecting to be in Imola within three weeks without having an engine deal.

The only other information leaking out about the Larrousse situation is that its former partners, Michel Golay and Patrick Tambay, who bought 26% of the team's shares last year, are believed to be taking legal action against Gerard Larrousse and Larrousse F1 president Robin Herd, (Gerard Larrousse is not allowed to control a company because of previous financial problems in France) in an effort to recoup their losses.

Larrousse somehow sold control of the remains of his company to new owners Jean Messaoudi and Laurent Barlesi - perhaps by issuing a large number of new shares - but it was only possible for the team to continue because the commercial tribunal in Toulon accepted that Messaoudi/Barlesi would help pay Larrousse's old debts. They are believed to have a contract which guarantees debt payments of $1m per year for the next four years.

The new owners claim that they have backing from the Malaysian oil company Petrobas, but this is not putting in any money until the cars appear at a race for the first time.

In the circumstances, it is hard to imagine how the team can possibly be in Imola - particularly if they do not yet have an engine deal...