Atlas F1 - The Daily Grapevine

Minardi Move Up in the Formula One World

Friday April 27th, 2001

No more jokes about struggling Minardi and their ageing team bus, please. Not about the bus, at any rate. The team have literally moved up in the status-conscious Formula One world by appearing at the Spanish Grand Prix with a pair of swish two-tier motor homes, one of which was originally built for the Sultan of Brunei.

Jordan -- many notches further up the pecking order -- have the other half of the original pair. But Minardi, who last scored a point in 1999 and have had little to boast about in the past other than having the smallest budget and the best expresso coffee machine, ordered another identical motor home in their all-black livery.

"It was a little disappointing that we weren't able to start the European part of the season, at Imola, with our new motorhomes in place, but last-minute fixtures and fittings meant it just wasn't possible," said team owner Paul Stoddart.

"In any event, we have them here in Spain and I am very pleased with the new image. As we promised at the start of the season, our intention is to increase European Minardi's competitiveness to a level not previously attained," he added.

"The new motor homes are just one step on the road to turning the team into a strong mid-field competitor within the next three years, both on and off the track."

Stoddart bought Minardi at the end of January after the Italian-based team looked in danger of failing to make the grid for the opening Australian Grand Prix. When he took over, the team had yet to confirm their drivers and needed an engine and sponsor.

Australian-born businessman Stoddart, a passionate motor racing fan who runs the British-based European Aviation air charter concern and a F3000 team, had the engines and brought a much-needed injection of cash.

Luxury Jet

Another immediate benefit to the team at Barcelona was the use of one of Stoddart's luxury private jets to transport the team members from their Italian factory to Spain. The plane is also painted in the team's colours.

"It guarantees the team will travel to European Grand Prix rounds in the most stylish, relaxing surroundings possible," the team declared in a statement.

Minardi are also running a two-seater Formula One car programme, inherited from Stoddart's days when he was an Arrows sponsor. Team spokesman Graham Jones said the two-seater was paying dividends for the team with the return of traction control and other electronic systems at the Spanish Grand Prix after they were banned at the end of 1993.

"Traction control has not been as much of a problem as one might imagine," commented Jones. "We've been running traction control (with the two-seater) cars for the last two years.

"So it's not a concept that's new to us, there are obviously niceties and things that have to be incorporated in the software but the actual software and what it's required to do is pretty well known. We spent three days testing at Mugello between Imola (San Marino Grand Prix) and Barcelona just to hone the system and get it to a state where we are happy.

"The whole thing seemed to work well."

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