Honda website
Honda website

OCTOBER 13, 1997

Junior Team fever

WHILE the BAT Reynard team is planning a multi-faceted assault on motor racing, some of the current Grand Prix teams are already looking seriously at expanding into Formula 3000, running in-house teams in the same livery as the F1 parent operation. This is a cheap way of increasing coverage and giving sponsors value for money and, at the same time it helps the F1 teams to train up young drivers for the future. The current restrictions on F1 testing are such that this now appears to be best alternative, particularly as it enables the drivers to run at the European circuits which are visited by the F1 circus. It also enables youngsters to race rather than being stuck in testing roles, which sometimes blunts their competitive edge.

McLaren is expected to run such an operation next year in European Formula 3000 with engineer David Brown looking after test driver Nick Heidfeld and a second youngster - perhaps Brazilian Max Wilson - with sponsorship from West, Mercedes, Mobil and so on. A Formula 3000 budget is small change to the big F1 combines and coverage can be increased dramatically.

This will also please F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone who has long been trying to establish a more professional Formula 3000 which he can promote more effectively. Ultimately we believe it is Ecclestone's aim to have two Divisions of F1, running on alternative weekends. This will enable Formula 1 Holdings to generate a great deal more money.

BAT Reynard will be doing the same and we expect the Prost will follow suit in 1999. Jordan is also looking at a similar idea and has just announced a scholarship scheme for Japanese drivers to prepare them for F1. The deal is as we predicted in July and is mainly a way to keep Mugen and Honda happy without having to run a Japanese driver in one of the Jordan F1 cars. The scheme will provide young Japanese drivers with the opportunity to test drive Jordan F1 cars.

On the same day Aguri Suzuki announced his plans to promote young Japanese drivers. Although the two schemes are not officially linked we believe that Suzuki's scheme will feed the Jordan Scholarship program.

Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA) is intended to be like the old Elf driver scheme in France, supporting drivers through the formative stages of their careers. The scheme will find seven candidates in its first year. They will be coached by Suzuki and others and will begin competing in the Suzuka Racing Formula. The organization will also run two cars in FormulaƊNippon, one in Japanese Formula 3 and another in the Japanese GT sportscar series. It will also be involved in karting and one-make racing. Drivers will rise through the ranks if they are successful and will thus be prepared for international competition.

The entire scheme is being supported by the automotive parts company Autobacs which has been involved in motor racing sponsorship since 1983 and was briefly a sponsor of both the Lotus and Brabham F1 teams.