JUNE 19, 1995

Simtek goes to the wall

NICK WIRTH'S Simtek Grand Prix has gone into voluntary liquidation and will take no further part in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. The team had struggled for money this year and was unable to put together a rescue package. Wirth decided to shut up shop rather than build up vast debts as has happened with other F1 teams in recent years.

Simtek is the 10th F1 team to close down in the last four years, following in the footsteps of AGS, Coloni, Lamborghini F1, Andrea Moda, March, Brabham, Fondmetal, Scuderia Italia, Lotus and Larrousse. In that same period only four teams have entered F1: Sauber, the now-defunct Simtek, Pacific and Forti.

Simtek's short career lasted just over a season, but the fact the team survived as long as did is remarkable. Simtek had no history before its first F1 race - although many of the crew had worked together at March. It was founded in the autumn of 1993 and launched at the end of October. The prototype S941 ran in December and Simtek made its F1 debut in Brazil in March, 1994. A little over a month later disaster struck when Roland Ratzenberger crashed at high-speed at Imola and was killed. The team regrouped but, having only one chassis, ran one car at Monaco while a new car was being built. Three days after it was finished, Ratzenberger's replacement, Andrea Montermini, destroyed the new chassis during practice at Barcelona, putting himself into hospital with a broken toe and a cracked heel.

The team survived the season but the S941 was never really competitive. The S951 looked a lot better but the team already had money troubles; and despite good showings from Verstappen, there were no results because of gearbox software problems.

Wirth, who is still only 29, has a big future as an F1 designer if he chooses to take that route, but he may now decide to concentrate on Simtek Research, his successful engineering consultancy firm. The closure puts around 30 employees out of work, although one or two of the engineers are likely to continue working at Simtek Research.