MAY 5, 2005

Preston Racing

Australia's Mark Preston says that he has long-term plans to enter a team in Formula 1. The 36-year-old engineer might lack credibility if he did not have a solid background in engineering in F1, having spent six years with Arrows, becoming the head of research and development, and then two years with McLaren. He has since decided that he is going to try to raise the money for his own teams and is currently in the process of studying for an MBA at Oxford Business School in England. Preston admits that raising the kind of money needed for F1 these days is going to be tough, particularly if a team has no track record but he says that he has a number of F1 engineers lined up to help him and has access to a currently unused F1 factory in Britain. This can only be the old Arrows facility in Leafield, which is now part of Menard Engineering Ltd, a engineering services company, which took over much of the business of the old TWR empire with backing from US billionaire racing fan John Menard. The operation in Britain is run by Australian Craig Wilson.

Preston is an old Arrows hand and the people he lists as being available to Preston Racing are mainly ex-Arrows or TWR people. These include Paul Bowen, a British Aerospace and Marconi engineer who joined Arrows in 1987 as one of Ross Brawn's team. He worked on the design team of the A10B chassis which in 1988 gave Arrows fourth place in the Constructors' Championship and was project engineer on the Arrows A11 in 1989. After Brawn and his replacement James Robinson moved on Bowen became chief engineer in 1990 and when Tom Walkinshaw took over the team Bowen became chief designer and led the team which produced the Arrows-Yamaha A18 of 1997. In 1999 he was replaced by Egbahl Hamidy but later followed Brawn to Ferrari where he headed mechanical design for a period. Also mentioned is Dr Rob Neumann, another former Arrows design engineer who has since started his own composites business; plus Kevin Lee, a TWR man dating back to 1979 who was involved in the Silk Cut Jaguar programme at Le Mans in the 1980s. Another ex-TWR man is finance executive Michael Boon. Preston says that other engineers will join him but are currently working elsewhere.

Preston, a graduate of Monash University in Melbourne, began working in racing with Borland Racing while still studying and in 1991 landed a job with Holden Special Vehicles. He moved on to Europe and got a job at Arrows just after Walkinshaw took over the team.

Preston knows that all the planning the world is not going to help if he does not have the money and says that he hopes to create a serious Le Mans programme to generate interest.