Super Aguri team to fold? UPDATE #20 (GMM) Spaniards Alejandro Agag and Adrian Campos have returned to the frame of potential formula one team ownership as Super Aguri fights for survival ahead of the Turkish grand prix.
The Leafield based outfit faces not only a race to find the couple of million euros necessary to compete at Istanbul Park, but also a race against the clock to retrieve its single seaters from supplier team Honda's Brackley base and dispatch them across Europe.
Although there were one or two exceptions, such as Renault, most formula one teams headed from Barcelona directly to the Italian port city of Trieste, where their cars will be boarded on a ferry to cross the Adriatic Sea bound for Turkey.
Aguri's unexplained UK detour means that the team must now imminently depart if it is to be stationed in the Istanbul garages for the start of free practice next Friday.
It is understood that the Dubai-funded Magma Group buyout is now completely lifeless, while Honda is not keen on the recently reported Weigl Group alternative because the German automotive company is only proposing an initial short-term rescue package rather than a full buyout.
Super Aguri boss Aguri Suzuki earlier this year engaged in detailed negotiations with Agag and Campos, co-owners of a GP2 team, about the sale of the Honda-supplied squad.
The Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell reports that the Agag-Campos solution may again be on the table.
It is suggested that the Spanish companies Telefonica and Repsol are keen to get behind the idea of a Spanish formula one team.04/30/08 (GMM) The German automotive engineering company Weigl Group has played down reports that it is behind an eleventh-hour rescue of the Super Aguri team.
Reports on Tuesday said the firm's chief executive Franz Josef Weigl visited the Spanish grand prix last weekend where he discussed financing the struggling Japanese team for at least the remainder of 2008.
Honda bankrolled Super Aguri's Barcelona action to the tune of 2 million euros, but has ruled out offering any further race-by-race assistance to the cash-strapped team.
Some pundits, however, reacted with surprise to the Weigl reports, pointing out that the company had already been rejected recently by Honda as a possible takeover partner.
An official source at Weigl reacted by pointing out that while CEO Franz Josef Weigl was a Super Aguri guest at the Circuit de Catalunya, this does not mean the company is going to get involved with the team.
Weigl was previously involved in a technical partnership with the Midland team, involving the design and construction of a gearbox.04/29/08 Additional information about The Weigl Group: The Weigl Group, a German automotive industry company, is tipped to be bidding to save the Super Aguri F1 team. The bad news is that Weigl has been around for some months and Honda has shown no great interest in getting involved in a deal, as Weigl does not appear to have the kind of money that is needed to bankroll an F1 team.
Weigl, which has sales of $200m a year, goes back to the 1970s when 52-year-old Franz Josef Weigl raced motorcycles. He then began to manufacture parts for the motorcycle industry and then expanded into the automobile business. Weigl components are now used by many car companies, including General Motors, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Porsche, Volvo and Jaguar.
The 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. It has been involved in F1 since the end of 2005 when a three-year technical partnership was agreed with MF1 Racing (now Force India). The company was to help MF1 with the design and construction of its gearbox.
While one can understand why Weigl would want to be involved in F1, it is not clear how the company would fund such a deal. However, if Honda is willing Weigl could take over the role of trying to save the team, while looking for backing in the months ahead. GrandPrix.com04/29/08 Automotive company Weigl Group are set to launch a bid to bankroll the cash-strapped Super Aguri team, according to a report on autosport.com on Tuesday. Weigl Group boss Franz Josef Weigl was reportedly present at last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix and has been linked with a £6.5million bid for the team run by former F1 driver Aguri Suzuki. According to the report, any deal with Weigl Group would likely only secure Super Aguri's future for the remainder of the 2008 season, with a long-term solution to be sought at a later date.
04/25/08 We hear that the Super Aguri team will be saved this weekend by a German investor. Stay tuned as we learn more.......
04/24/08 (GMM) According to speculation in the Barcelona paddock, Super Aguri is close to agreeing a new deal with the Dubai-funded Magma Group.
Whether the contracts can be signed in time for Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson to participate in the Spanish grand prix, however, is another matter.
Honda - Super Aguri's free car, engine and technical supplier - is apparently adamant that pen must be put to paper before the SA08s get the green light to exit the Circuit de Catalunya pit garages.
The struggling Leafield based team has at least fully set up shop at the circuit, complete with 60 members of the race team and its comparatively dwarfed motor home in the paddock.
"We advise that discussions regarding investment are ongoing, however, due to legal conditions, we are unable to expand on, allude to or provide further details regarding this confidential matter at present," the team said on Thursday.
"We would like to thank our team partners, suppliers, our fans and colleagues in the media for their continuing patience and support, and we look forward to our weekend at the Barcelona grand prix."
04/21/08 (GMM) A German racing executive and banker has ruled himself out of the running to rescue the ailing Super Aguri team.
With the Magma deal off, rumors had circulated that a German concern was willing to step into the breach to buy the Japanese team and save it from imminent collapse.
But Dr Thomas Bscher, also a former driver and motor sport executive, has told the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell that he is in fact not going to save Super Aguri.
He had been spotted as a guest of the Honda-powered team at Bahrain, but Bscher insists: "I have nothing to do with the business of formula one."
Explaining further, he adds: "I would never engage with a team that races only at the back because I doubt very much that you could make any money that way."
Bscher also said the fact that he was hosted by Super Aguri in Bahrain and not another team is "pure coincidence".04/19/08 (GMM) Super Aguri's financial crisis remains dire, but two positive signs emerged from the Leafield camp on Saturday.
Firstly, it has emerged that one of the Japanese team's transporters has been dispatched to the Circuit de Catalunya, scene of next Sunday's Spanish grand prix, despite uncertainty about whether Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson will be able to compete.
The German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, meanwhile, reveals that negotiations to save the team are in full swing, including the involvement since last Wednesday of F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone -- who has contributed personally to the similar rescue of struggling outfits in the past.
For Super Aguri to survive even to the checkered flag at Barcelona, it is reported that the team needs 2 million euros by Monday.
It is also suggested that Ecclestone, 77, is pushing for another buyout group - this time from Germany - to step up.
Part of his task could be to persuade Honda to commit to continue supplying Super Aguri with cars and engines until the end of 2009.
04/18/08 One of the Aguri transporters has left the factory and is headed to Barcelona for next weekend's race, but that does not mean that they will complete a deal in time to secure the future of the team. Rumors say to look for Bernie Ecclestone to do some behind the scenes dealing to help them.
04/18/08 (GMM) A team co-owner has confirmed Super Aguri's dire financial situation, but clarified reports of a now less than two-day deadline for survival.
It was reported that the Japanese outfit needed to replace the mislaid Magma Group backing so urgently that team transporters might have their scheduled departure for the Spanish grand prix called off on Saturday.
Team co-owner Fumio Akita, a long time business partner of team boss Aguri Suzuki, did however admit that Super Aguri is in danger of missing the forthcoming Barcelona race.
"It's possible," he told Reuters on Friday.
At the risk of permanent exclusion from the sport, all teams are required to attempt to qualify for every grand prix on the calendar.
"Even if we have the money to go to Spain we might not be able to carry on after that," he added.
Akita, though, denied that Saturday is the final deadline.
"I don't think there will be a decision until after the weekend," he said. "It is likely to be Monday or Tuesday until we hear. It will be very, very tight." 04/17/08 (GMM) Honda on Thursday ruled out rescuing the financially embattled formula one team Super Aguri.
After the expected backing of the Dubai-funded Magma Group fell through, team insiders on Wednesday said hopes would now turn not only to other prospective buyers, but also a bail-out by Bernie Ecclestone or Honda.
Super Aguri was founded ahead of the 2006 season with the assistance of Honda, the Japanese carmaker and formula one competitor that has supplied the team with cars, engines and technical and financial support.
Honda is believed to have scaled back its support in recent months, and Super Aguri is reportedly now just days away from closing its doors.
"We intend to continue the present structure of our support for Super Aguri," the Honda spokesman told the French news agency AFP.
He also denied reports that said Super Aguri had requested a financial rescue package in light of the failed Magma deal.04/17/08 (GMM) A team insider has painted a bleak picture of Super Aguri's race against time for survival.
The Japanese team announced on Wednesday that the expected backing of the agreed buyout group Magma will not materialize.
After Super Aguri sat out the Barcelona test this week, a team insider told the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport late on Wednesday: "We have exactly three days to find an alternate solution.
"If we do not find the money, we cannot race," he added ominously.
The three day deadline is believed to relate to the need for transporters to leave the Leafield factory for Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on Saturday, ahead of the Spanish grand prix the following weekend.
The struggling team is now hoping for a bail-out by previous team backer Honda, or F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who will be hoping to retain a full grid.
It is also rumored that a German company, and possibly also a group from America, are still interested in buying Super Aguri. 04/16/08 Statement from Super Aguri:
SUPER AGURI F1 TEAM confirms that it has been informed by Magma Group, the potential purchasers of the team, that its investors no longer wish to fund the intended acquisition.
It is with deep regret that Aguri Suzuki is now forced to consider the future of the team, however negotiations with other parties continue.
The team will issue a further statement in due course.
03/20/08 The big question in F1 circles in recent days has been where the money is coming from to fund the takeover of the Super Aguri F1 team. This is rumored to be from the Middle East. There have been rumors for many years of a government involvement in racing from the booming emirate of Dubai. This was expected to be along the lines of the funding of the Victory Team offshore powerboat team. No deal has ever materialized but Dubai has invested in the first Formula One-branded theme park, which is now under construction.
Our spies tell us that the Super Aguri deal is a five-year program and will see around $70m a year being invested in the Leafield operation. This will provide a solid foundation on which to build, although the team will no doubt be looking for more money. It is expected that the cars will be used to promote different aspects of Dubai and companies in which investments have been made. Dubai has built up its tourism in recent years, using sport as a promotional tool.
The company that is most likely to be involved is Dubai International Capital (DIC). This has been actively involved in negotiations to purchase the English Premier League soccer club Liverpool FC - one of the world's great sporting franchises - even after the sale of the team to US sports tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks. On March 10, however, Hicks announced that discussions with DIC were finally over.
A couple of days later came the announcement of the Super Aguri takeover. Grandprix.com03/10/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.
03/04/08 (GMM) The financially embattled formula one team Super Aguri has been saved by a mystery investor, reports on Tuesday said.
The German specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport is claiming that the Honda backed outfit, run by former Japanese grand prix driver Aguri Suzuki, will make the trip to Melbourne for next weekend's season opener after reaching a deal with the rumored buyer.
The publication said the deal, believed to be headed by a British company and a Middle Eastern sponsor, and possibly some German involvement, could be confirmed this week.
Auto Motor und Sport added that while Suzuki has relinquished his entire 100 per cent shareholding, he will still be the team boss and the outfit will not be renamed.
Additionally, Takuma Sato is reportedly assured his cockpit for 2008 and 2009, with his teammate this season to again be Anthony Davidson.
Honda is to remain as chassis and engine partner, with Super Aguri to race last year's works RA107 - mated with the rear end of the 2008 Honda - at the beginning of this season, Auto Motor und Sport continued.
Later in the year, meanwhile, the team will reportedly get its hands on the entire RA108.02/29/08 (GMM) The co-owner of Super Aguri insists the struggling team will be on the Melbourne grid next month, but also confirmed that talks to sell '100 per cent' of the outfit are going on.
Team chief Aguri Suzuki was in Tokyo recently for crisis talks regarding the Honda-powered squad's financial problems, after the team missed nearly the entire pre-season series of track tests.
But team co-owner Fumio Akita, a long time business partner of Suzuki's, played down the reasons for the test absences, amid rumors that Honda are holding back the team's 2008 cars pending an agreement.
"The cancellation was because some parts hadn't arrived in time," Akita told the news agency Reuters.
"We will be on the grid for Melbourne. We're not worried at all about missing out," he said.
Akita also confirmed that it is possible that 100 per cent of the team will be sold, amid talks with up to three potential buyers.
"Obviously, we have to think of the future and what's best for the team," he said.
"But even if it's a 100 per cent stake you can't sensibly get rid of the team per se.
"If you have no Aguri (Suzuki) you probably lose Honda as engine suppliers. If investors come in and say they can bring in BMW engines that's a different story.
"But even if we give up 100 per cent share it doesn't necessarily mean the owner or the team name goes with it," he added.02/22/08 (GMM) Talks in Tokyo about the future of Super Aguri will be crucial to the uncertain survival of the Japanese team, it is reported.
The British newspaper The Guardian reveals that Aguri Suzuki, the struggling team's boss and owner and a former driver of 64 grands prix, travelled to Tokyo on Thursday for key talks with team backer Honda.
Leafield based Super Aguri has suffered a difficult winter, as financial problems cloud the future and viability of the Honda-bolstered team.
Talks with potential investors have been taking place recently, but rumors suggest that Honda's reluctance to allow a new buyer to take majority control of the outfit has so far been an obstacle to reaching a definitive deal.
It is also clear that last year's abysmal earth-liveried RA107 would form the basis of the car Super Aguri would use at least in early 2008 -- a fact that almost guarantees a slot at the very back of the grid.
The Guardian said: "It is understood that talks over the next 24 hours are now key to deciding Super Aguri's future."02/21/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Today's London Times reports, "Motor racing F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One commercial rights holder, said on Tuesday that there was nothing he could do to assist the Super Aguri team, which is on the verge of going out of business. The loss of the Japanese outfit, whose drivers include Anthony Davidson, would cut down the Formula One grid from 22 to 20 cars, but Ecclestone said that he should not intervene."
02/20/08 According to our sources in Europe, Honda has decided to pull the plug on the Super Aguri team. Stay tuned for an announcement. Will be interesting to see if someone else buys the team.