News and views on motorsports

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Business Of Selling Racing Cars

Have a look at this article on Pitpass. It discusses the re-entry of Lola as a Formula 3 chassis supplier. Champcar fans will know of Lola for a very long time now as they are one of the chassis supplier to the series.

In the hands of Danilo Dirani, the new Lola Mugens have been making headlines in the British Formula 3 championship. They took a dominant win in the first two rounds of the championship at Donington Park. The event was a double header and Dirani won both races from pole position.

The Pitpass article asks questions on the competitiveness of rival Dallara. And goes on to look at a history of the two marques in Formula 3, Indycars and of course Formula 1.

But what interests me is of course that chassis makers like Lola, Dallara, Reynard and March (established by Max Mosley and Robin Herd) all took the plunge into modern Formula 1. All of them have failed to make the cut. The best effort I think was the March effort run by the Leyton House team in the late 80s and 90s. Who could forget that in 1988, when Formula 1 was transitioning from turbo to the current normally aspirated formula? The Leyton House March with a Judd V8 could hold its own against the turbocharged Ferraris.

Of course Leyton House March could be expected to do well. They had an ace technical director by the name of Adrian Newey. All the rest can be said to have bombed out. Reynard especially in spectacular style, sending the otherwise distinguished chassis maker into bankruptcy. Lola of course attempted Formula 1 with the Carl Haas in 1986 with Cosworth power. Thankfully they abandoned the project and concentrated on Indycars.

The article does make a sound observation that chassis makers are successful in junior formulae, Indycars and Champcars when they take their Formula 1 experience and applies it to their designs. But taking part in Formula 1 itself is a hazardous affair. It sucks out companies' resources and makes their bread and butter offerings to junior formulae less competitive. Its bitten everyone of them in the bottom. Including Dallara itself once upon a time.

The problems arises because teams in Formula 1 must manufacture their own chassis. In junior formulae, Champcars and IRL teams are allowed to purchase cars. Companies like Dallara make their monies out of selling their products to other teams. Not just cars but a whole load of parts out of it. Plus a little technical consulting on the side I'm sure. But in Formula 1, they can only supply to a single one.

So questions must be asked about Dallara's involvement with Jordan next year. Are we in fact seeing the first signs of trouble here?

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