Aguri future 'in Honda's hands' - Weigl UPDATE (GMM) One week before the start lights shine on the Turkish grand prix gantry, Super Aguri's future is still hanging in the balance.
Not long after it was officially confirmed on Friday that the German automotive company Weigl was poised to rescue the team, Honda's F1 CEO Nick Fry cast doubt on Weigl's ability to make its touted investment work.
The executive board of Honda - Super Aguri's creditor, sponsor and technical supplier - will meet in Tokyo to rule on the Weigl proposal on Tuesday.
Amid speculation that Weigl's proposed offer is only for a partial shareholding and initial funds only to cover the 2008 season, it has emerged that the company is also only willing to pay back the team's nearly $100m in debt to Honda over a three year period.
Magma Group, the prospective Aguri saviour whose Dubai backing recently fell through, was apparently willing to pay back the debt to Honda in one hit.
Weigl CEO Franz Josef Weigl, however, insists that his Bavaria-based company has the ability to prop up Super Aguri into the long term.
"The Weigl group's offer is backed by strong business finance partners who along with the Weigl group would like to invest long term and not just short term," he said.
"With our partners, the offer is not only about rescuing the team, but about constructing a future for Super Aguri and Takuma Sato."
Weigl also claims that F1 chief executive Ecclestone "confirmed to us that he wants the team to survive", despite emerging reports on Sunday that Super Aguri's transporters have been prevented from accessing Istanbul's Otodrom venue just one week ahead of the grand prix there.
Weigl said: "The decision is now in Honda's hands."
"Super Aguri must survive, live and be successful"
|Franz Josef Weigl|
Franz Josef Weigl is a German business man now living in Munich, and who turned 50 years old on Wednesday March 26, the week between the Malaysia and Bahrain Grand Prix.
After Barcelona, Franz Josef Weigl was hoping to relax and go back to his home and company headquarters in Pottmes in Bavaria (Germany), located between Nuremberg and Munich having completed some additional key business meetings with investors associated with his company before finalizing an offer to Honda to partner Super Aguri F1 and to patiently await a decision by the board of Honda in Tokyo.
In making this official offer, the CEO of the medium sized company Pottmes-based Weigl Group AG also took a serious business decision for the company that he started as a salesman 29 years ago back in the 1970s. Now he is the CEO of a company which has sales in excess of $200M a year. This move is not only about rescuing a Formula One team, but also about making a long-term promotional plan that Franz Josef Weigl on behalf of his group and his investors.
This plan will be submitted to Honda board members on Tuesday and is aimed at properly rescuing the Super Aguri team by bringing the small team to a high competitive level.
Franz Josef Weigl explains to Kyodo why as he says: "Super Aguri must survive, live and become successful":
Q How involved is the Weigl Group in F1?
A: It was a long time since I started the company as a salesman 29 years ago. Now our group has developed in three important directions: metallurgical technology, drive train technology and aluminum sand casting. At the time, the group was manufacturing parts for the motorcycle industry and then expanded into the automobile business. Components from the Weigl group are now used by many car companies, including General Motors, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Porsche, Volvo and Jaguar.
Q How did you have the idea to come to F1?
A: Well, it was a slow but unavoidable business process. Our clients are the main car manufacturers. We developed a number of high level technology solutions on their behalf. Our technical solutions are trusted by most of the top teams.
Q: Have you already worked with a specific F1 team?
A: Indeed, we were sharing technology solutions with the Midland F1 team and supported them in bringing high level solutions and expertise to help MF1 with the design and construction of its gearbox.
Q: When did you meet Aguri Suzuki for the first time?
A: We met two years ago. I have always been impressed by the Super Aguri team. The team is a strong fighter and very competitive for the level of investment. For my company and my investors, with the help of Honda, Super Aguri must survive, live and become successful.
Q: Why does your group wish to be associated with F1 racing?
A: There are four different key reasons. The first is the number of contacts that the Weigl group already have business wise with the existing F1 teams through the manufacturers. As a company, we believe in enterprise and long-term investment and implementation of proper planning. Our prime mission and goal - with the help of Honda - is to bring Super Aguri to a superior technological level. Our company masters the technical knowhow to bring this about. I also strongly believe that to remain sound the F1 sport needs private teams and not only manufacturer's works teams. Finally, I am convinced that our group has the right technology package needed to help Super Aguri compete with the other private teams and to give the right tools to Honda to see it happen and even bring Super Aguri to a much higher competitive level.
Q: Is your group strong enough to offer a long-term deal?
A. Yes, the Weigl group's offer is backed by strong business finance partners who along with the Weigl group would like to invest long term and not just short term. With our partners, the offer is not only about rescuing the team, but about constructing a future for the Super Aguri F1 team and Takuma Sato. We hope that Honda board members would be willing to have faith in our long term business plan.
Q: How was the Barcelona weekend for you?
A: Very busy of course. With a number of valuable business meetings with the Super Aguri F1 team, Mr. Ecclestone who confirmed to us that he wants the team to survive, with Honda General Manager Motor Sports Division to whom I communicated our official offer.
Q: Did you have time to watch the Grand Prix?
A: Of course, I followed every moment of the Grand Prix. The Super Aguri team have been fighting for survival since the first day of this weekend's race in Spain. One of Japan's most popular hero, driver Takuma Sato, finished the race in 13th position. And for the team, this is the best result of the 2008 season. Super Aguri really have done their homework up to this point although they had not been able to test in good conditions since the start of the season.
Q: How do you rate Takuma Sato?
A: Takuma Sato is a strong F1 driver. Sometimes he has a kamikaze style. I am surprised how popular he is in Japan - sort of a sporting idol. Takuma Sato has a difficult mission and he deals with it in a very subtle way. I have followed his exploits since he started his career.
Q: What sort of business manager are you? A visionary?
A: The Weigl group, a supplier to the automotive and machine tool industries, was once evaluated in Germany, as one of the 100 most innovative medium sized companies in Germany based on several criteria of success. In addition to the commercial sales performance figures and product/service innovations, two additional criteria were decisive in the choice, notably: significant process innovations in personnel and organization plus corporate culture.
In Europe, this weekend, there is a bank holiday "Labour day" and businesses are shut in most of continental Europe from Thursday to Monday. Mr. Weigl's company is also shut for this reason. But Mr. Weigl called Kyodo from Greece where he was running business meetings.
He follows every moment of the development of his offer to Honda.
Equally in Japan, the "Golden Week" has postponed the meeting of the Board originally planned at Honda, and postponed it to early next week. Will Honda accept the proposal from the German industrial? The answer will be known in a few days in Japan. Mr. Weigl is patient. He knows the world of F1. He has been actively involved in F1 since the end of 2005.
Franz Josef Weigl's firm is based in Pottmes in Bavaria. The company has eight subdivisions at six different locations. It concentrates on metalworking, notably with transmissions and treatments for engine parts. It also owns a foundry and a prototyping subsidiary, i.e. a perfect match for Super Aguri and Takuma Sato.
The decision is now in Honda's hands. The issue, though, is not a foregone conclusion. Weigl's firm is not sure at the moment that the offer will be accepted at the Honda board meeting because it is understood that with the previous take over they wanted Magma to pay back the debt to Honda at once, while the difference with Weigl's offer is that the debt will be paid back over three years. Weigl Group AG