MAY 3, 1999

Arrows t-minus money

Arrows team boss Prince Malik promised "a big surprise" from the team at Imola with the countdown on the side of the car coming to an end, but the announcement sent few ripples of interest through the F1 paddock. It seems that there is no big sponsor, nor a flotation but rather "t-minus" is a brand which Malik hopes can be exploited commercially via the Internet.

The intention is to sell rebranded consumer goods which will include clothing, high-energy drinks, mountain bikes, Ducati motorcycles and even, if anyone wants them, t-minus-branded Lamborghini road cars. Most of the deals seem to have been put together by the team's Italian marketing man Daniele Audetto, who used to be head of Lamborghini Engineering.

It remains to be seen how this will fund the Arrows team and paddock speculation suggests that Malik's real intention is actually to simply hold on to the team until a big manufacturer arrives to buy him out. There remains very little evidence that there is any money being pumped into Arrows apart from income from the TV fund, and sponsors Repsol and PIAA.

There are suggestions that the team is considering the purchase of the Bedford low-speed windtunnel, which is currently owned by Britain's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. Arrows has an option to use the windtunnel until the end of the year 2000 but wants to buy it before it is snapped up by another team. The facility is understood to be one of the best in the world and can run 50% or even 60% models. Stewart Grand Prix is believed to be looking at a possible deal with the DERA although the team is also discussing using a windtunnel at Glasgow University in Scotland. The team is also expanding its aerodynamic program at Swift in San Clemente, California, with the intention of running the facility 24 hours a day. Stewart has to share the Swift facility with Swift Engineering - which supplies chassis to various CART teams - and with other Swift customers who have bought space in the tunnel.