JUNE 10, 2008

Toro Rosso - the Ultimate solution?

There are reports that the British Formula 3 team Ultimate Motorsport is negotiating to buy a shareholding in Scuderia Toro Rosso, with funding for the project coming from the Angolan oil company Sonangol. Ultimate was formed in 2006 by Barry Walsh, a former racer. He had raced with Bertrand Decoster, the boss of Mygale, back in Formula Ford days and the two agreed that the new team would run with Mygale F3 cars in 2007. The team has just scored its first British F3 victory, thanks to the efforts of Michael Devaney at Snetterton last weekend. The team also runs Ricardo Teixeira, who is funded by Sonangol.

There is no doubt that Sonangol can afford an F1 programme. It is the company that manages all of Angola's oil and gas production. The former Portuguese colony is the largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria, but for years the profits from oil were used to pay for a disastrous civil war. This ended in 2002 and since then the country has been rebuilding but still replies heavily on oil with around 85% of all government revenue coming from oil. Much of the money in recent years has been spent on repairing the country's infrastructure but there are plans for new industries, notably the tourist trade.

With the price of oil now booming the Angolans have more money than ever to invest in new schemes but there are unlikely to be any decisions about F1 until the first free Angolan elections since the civil war take place on September 5. This is expected to be a test for President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in the run up for a presidential election in 2009.

It is often thought that there is a connection between Ricardo Teixeira and A1GP boss Tony, who has been active in Angola over the years, but it is a very common Portuguese name and in reality there is no link. Tony Teixeira was a potential buyer of Scuderia Toro Rosso last year but that idea seems to have failed because the team needed to become a constructor by 2010.

This is not going to be easy, but one can see that a deal between Ultimate and Toro Rosso might be attractive because of the link with Mygale.

The French company is ambitious and having built more than 500 racing cars, notably for Formula Ford, Formula Renault and Formula BMW, has now moved on to Formula 3. With the right investment and recruitment, Mygale might be a fast way for Scuderia Toro to build its cars. The company is based in Magny-Cours and uses the RUAG windtunnel at Emmen, in Switzerland, which was regularly used by Sauber before it built its own facility at Hinwil. Mygale is currently extending its factory, doubling its surface area. The firm has also used the Aero Concepts Engineering (ACE) wind tunnel at Magny Cours (the former Prost facility). A deal involving Mygale would fulfil the ambitions of all concerned and if the money is available, it should be considered a serious possibility. It would almost certainly have to be for 2010 as it is too late to try to build an F1 car from scratch for 2009, but Red Bull has said that its goal was to sell the team by the end of 2009.