Are Russians behind Dallara F1 project?

UPDATE #3 This rumor is close to going to 'fact.' This Autosport article says, An all-new Formula 1 team with cars built and prepared by Italian racing car constructor Dallara will be announced at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, autosport.com can reveal. And although the outfit is eyeing a 2006 entry, there is growing speculation that it could even be on the grid next year. Dallara has been working behind the scenes for several months now in preparing a chassis and it has been on a massive recruitment drive to bolster its staff and get itself geared up for a full-time F1 effort in time for the start of 2006. The funding for the project is believed to come from either Russian or Canadian backers and an announcement about the plans is expected to be made on Friday – simultaneously in both Japan and Italy.

Under the plans for a 2006 entry, Dallara will build a test chassis and is expected to run with Cosworth engines next year while it gathers data and knowledge of F1 machinery, having not built a full-spec F1 car since an aborted project with Honda in 1999. However, sources claim that Dallara's backers may be keen to get on the grid next year and could be ready to make a bid to buy Jaguar – where they will have a ready-made car in the team's R6 and all the facilities and staff they need to be on the grid in Melbourne next March. Speculation about such a scenario is growing with insiders claiming that hopes for a Red Bull purchase of Jaguar based around Toyota engines are now fading – with Toyota chiefs in Japan having ruled out supplying any customer engines to the team in 2005. The reasons for such a decision, just weeks after it was revealed that Toyota was planning to supply customer engines next year, could be because a potential buyer of Jaguar has also offered to take on Cosworth.

09/24/04 It is expected that this weekend at the Chinese Grand Prix Dallara will announce its entry into Formula One for the 2006 season. With the new 2.4-litre V8 engines still a prospect for 2006, Dallara could find themselves entering Formula 1 on a level playing field. In terms of engines, a deal may be in place to test Cosworth engines during 2005 for development reasons. Bridgestone tires seem to be the way Dallara are heading, which is a sensible move. Dallara are one of many teams in the rumors to buy Jaguar Racing, however this does not seem to be the path for Dallara. Dallara will enter Formula 1 on their own accord. There are rumors circulating that Gerhard Berger will head the team in 2006, which will please Bernie Eccelstone who will be sad to see one of his few allies in Flavio Briatore leave. We await the announcement with great anticipation. Daily F1 News 08/31/04 We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong' today based on this additional information. There was some excitement at Spa over the stories in circulation that Dallara has been commissioned to build a Formula 1 car for a new team which is aiming to enter the World Championship in 2006. The project is serious with Dallara having already been paid $80m as a downpayment. Recruitment has already started even though there has been no official announcement about who is behind the project. The word at Spa was that there were Russians involved but our sources say that this is not strictly true as the company involved is a Canadian conglomerate which wants to increase its global reach with the specific aim of building up new markets in Europe, Russia and Asia. The company involved is a big player in the steel industry and we believe that the most likely candidate is a firm called Dofasco, which is involved in steel, construction, packaging, distribution and automotive componentry.

The company seems to be right for a global boost. It acquired a new chief executive in the middle of last year and has adopted a strategy of growth by expansion rather than by acquiring rival firms. The company has cash reserves of more than $430m and has a strong cash-flow thanks to booming sales at the moment. The firm made a profit of $110m in the second quarter of the year.

The project is not going to be officially launched until an engine deal has been agreed but it looks like the team will either have a customer Cosworth or will become the first customer for Toyota. That decision will be made shortly and we would expect to have an announcement before the end of the current season. Details of who would run the team are not yet decided. Grandprix.com

08/27/04 The word on the street in F1 circles is that the new Dallara F1 car may have been commissioned by one of the Russian oligarchs. It is not yet clear which one of the billionaire businessmen is involved but the obvious suggestions would be Chelsea Football Club's Roman Abramovich and Nikolai Smolenski, the 24-year-old who recently bought TVR. Our sources however say that neither is involved and that the project is headed one of the barons from the metal industry. There are a number of likely candidates for such a project including 37-year-old Alexei Mordashov, the chairman of the steel company Severstal. He is much more international than some of the other oligarchs having studied for an MBA at Northumbria University in England). He is fluent in English and in German. He is also keen to promote the Russian car industry. The other man who might be involved is Oleg Deripaska, the head of RusAl, the world's second-largest aluminum producer. Deripaska owns 75% of the firm and is also owner of Russia's largest car manufacturer. Grandprix.com

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