Campos Out, Kolles In… Team Saved?

The future of the Campos Formula 1 team is set to be clarified by the end of the week, with sources close to the squad informing me that team founder Adrian Campos is set to part company with the squad after its takeover by former Jordan, Midland, Spyker and Force India boss Colin Kolles.

It is understood that Kolles has put up his own money to buy the team and to start to pay off the team’s debts to car designer Dallara, in order to get the team to the first race in Bahrain. As recent online rumours have stated Team Principal Jose Ramon Carabante will remain in place, although it remains to be seen whether Danielle Audetto will also stay at the squad as he and Kolles experienced something of a rocky relationship during Audetto’s time at Super Aguri when he and then Spyker-employed Kolles disagreed somewhat over the concept of customer cars.

All in all, it’s actually good news as far as the team is concerned as Kolles’ apparent investment and takeover may well have saved the jobs of a good group of people and assured one more new team’s place on the 2010 grid. A team name change so late in the day could prove difficult, although there are believed to be some pretty serious potential investors in the wings who might make the establishment sit up and take notice.

When Kolles’ name was first mentioned as a potential investor, it was done so alongside rumours of a Volkswagen takeover of Campos. Although Volkswagen denied the reports at the time, the company is not being so negative today, and is merely refusing to confirm or deny that they are in talks with the team. It may seem like a technicality, but it is actually a million miles away from their previous flat denial.

Volkswagen’s apparent and potential interest in F1 comes at a time when the majority of the motor manufacturers have pulled out of F1, and as such any new manufacturer entrant would be big, and hugely positive, news. Moreover, Volkswagen has a number of brands which could sit well within F1. From Volkswagen itself there is also SEAT at the cheaper end of the market. The company also owns the Audi brand and at the very top end, Volkswagen was of course involved in that most epic of cars, the Bugatti Veyron.

My colleague Joe Saward has today mused that SEAT would be a neat fit for a Spanish-based F1 team, and it is worth mentioning that Rally legend and absolute Spanish hero Carlos Sainz, who now races for Volkswagen in the Dakar, has been spotted at F1 testing checking out how things work.

To my mind however, it is Audi which would make the most sense for any potential Volkswagen involvement. Audi is a big brand and serves the car market from small city run-arounds to high powered supercars. From the A3 (read overpriced VW Golf), all the way up to the simply glorious R9, Audi is an aspirational auto brand, and one which would sit well in Formula 1.

Audi already races at Le Mans and in the DTM, and is a hugely successful marque in its own right. A transition to Formula 1 wouldn’t therefore be completely out of left field.

Now factor in these little nuggets… Colin Kolles runs Audi A4s in the DTM and Audi R10s at Le Mans and in the Le Mans Series.

Dallara designed the Audi R8, one of the most succesful racing cars in the marque’s history.

See where I’m going?

Oh… and wouldn’t it just look a bit special, too? Huge thanks to Kim Stapleton for letting me use his incredible mock-up of an Audi F1 car.

Ev-One 2009 Audi F1 Concept Livery
© Kim Stapleton

OK, I’m just speculating because there is, as yet, absolutely no confirmation that Volkswagen really is talking to the team… but there are enough links there to make you think that these rumours might actually have some substance to them.

Either way, I fully expect to see Colin Kolles confirmed as the new owner of the Campos F1 team by the end of the week. It’s hugely sad for Adrian Campos himself, who is a man I like very much. He had a dream to go racing in Formula 1, and if it is ultimately the case that his dream has had to end then I, for one, will be very sad that it has come to such a conclusion. He’s a racer, pure and simple, and similar to the guys at USF1 one feels that if the size of their hearts were only matched by the extent of their wallets then we’d have two mega little teams in F1 this year.

Kolles’ takeover may also have other ramifications. Bruno Senna was signed up to the original Campos team, but had to bring no money with him on the basis that the team could use his image and name to attract sponsors to the squad. They have failed in this regard, and given that Senna’s contract was with Adrian Campos and his team, one wonders how stable that deal will be with the team’s new owner. Frankly I think they’d be crazy to get rid of him. He’s fast, he’s young, he’s got bucket loads of potential and he’s also hugely marketable in the right hands.

All this comes on the day that we are hearing that USF1’s base in Charlotte is up for sale. There is talk that a rift is starting to appear in the team between those pulling their weight and those who are not, and I understand that Peter Windsor is making his way over to Europe to try and find a solution to save his dream before all is lost. Peter’s worked his backside off trying to make this team happen, and I really hope it all works out, even if it’s not the 100% pure American squad which he’d hoped for.

Even the usually smug StefanGP’s not having a great time. Despite team owner Zoran Stefanovich saying he’s on the verge of announcing his drivers (he’d do well to get an F1 entry first), we’re hearing he hasn’t paid Toyota for their car yet and as such all of those goodies could be back up for sale soon as well.

Expect these stories to develop quickly, as with less than a month to go until Bahrain, there is very little time to get deals done.

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12 thoughts on “Campos Out, Kolles In… Team Saved?

  1. Dear Will,

    Didn’t Ayrton Senna become the official Audi importer for the country of Brazil in 1994? I wonder if Milton Da Silva is still running this company… I would love to see Bruno become involved with Audi. He needs to get aligned with a company like this to help develop his natural talent so he can challenge for the world championship one day.

    Regards,
    Bruno Senna Fan

  2. Will,

    Fantastic article on the state of play of the three new teams. I read somewhere that the money behind Kolles could actually be from Mr.E. Any truth in that?

  3. Pingback: US F1 is niet meer, López naar Campos. Of toch niet? | Motor Racing Blog

  4. Will, looks like JV got the seat at Stefan GP! woooo hooooo :)
    The Toyota should be a good solid car…
    What do you think about this news :)

  5. With one, possibly two of the new teams not likely to make Bahrain (at least not in their original guises) surely a great deal needs to be asked of the new team selection process. Of the three originally chosen only Manor/Virgin is sure to make the grid, which is a pretty poor hit rate. What of teams like Prodrive and Epsilon Euskadi, who had both the backing and experience of running successful teams but were overlooked?

    • James, I’m told Epsilon Euskadi are a little flighty. Their World Series campaign has mostly been going downhill since Kubica won the title for them, and they abandoned the Epsilon Euskadi ee1 Le Mans car pretty quickly when it was an eternity off the pace.

      As for Prodrive, well, they hd a grid entry once. And they never appeared. Yes, I know they needed customer chassis regulations to be passed through, and yes, I know the FIA didn’t make it happen. But whatever the case, one thing remains: Prodrive had a grid entry and they never showed up. The FIA is not going to forget that any time soon. Even if the FIA were to accept blame for it, that doesn’t entirely exonerate Prodrive – Dave Richards probably should have considered that the idea of a customer chassis would be unpopular with the teams (Toro Rosso and Super Aguri got them through loopholes where Richards was going to do a straight sale) and come up with a backup plan.

      • An interesting angle Monkey man.

        Some might say that the FIA’s acceptance of Prodive only to change its mind on customer cars, has a great similarity to its acceptance of the 2010 teams and then backing out of the budget cap. ie. Teams accepted for a championship run on one set of rules, and then said rules no longer being in place when the championship actually begins.

      • Will, I don’t think the FIA had any other choice than to accept the new teams under the budget cap. I feel costs have been spiralling out of control for years, and they needed to be reined in. But FOTA dragged their feet in the negotiations, and then there was the Formula Elaborate Bluff breakaway series. If anybody is to blame for new rules being introduced that affected the fortunes of the new teams, it’s FOTA. That said, the ten teams staying in the sport at the expense of one or two new teams is far better than the three new teams lining up on the grid and the FOT teams going elsewhere.

  6. Pingback: USF1 and Campos developments | Xtreme Supersports

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