SEPTEMBER 15, 1997

The Brabham saga drags on

TED BALL, the man who funded both the Brabham and Lotus F1 teams in the early 1990s, went on trial last week at the OldÊBailey in London facing charges of conspiracy to defraud and accepting bribes. At the time Ball was running a public company called Landhurst Leasings, which had built a successful empire leasing expensive cars to wealthy customers. Banks loaned Landhurst over $180m but when the company crashed in the autumn of 1992 the receivers found that $75m was missing. The Serious Fraud Office began an investigation soon afterwards.

The jury at the Old Bailey heard that Ball funded the Middlebridge Group's purchase of the Brabham F1 team in March 1990 simply because he wanted to be a major player in F1. The prosecution alleges that during the next two years Ball and his finance director David Ashworth took bribes from Middlebridge to keep the money pouring in and doctored Landhurst accounts to make it seem that everything was running smoothly. Ball and Ashworth deny the charges.