Durango F1? Don’t make me laugh.

The Durango 95 purred away real horrorshow...

Just when you thought you’d seen the last of bizarrely far-fetched F1 bids, this week’s news that Durango has applied for the vacant 13th grid slot for 2011 should have you spitting out your cornflakes.

For all of you fellow Stanley Kubrick fans, I’m afraid to inform you that the Durango of which we speak is not the Durango of “A Clockwork Orange” fame. The Durango 95 car stolen by Alex and his droogs in the movie was, in fact, an M-505 Adams Brothers Probe 16, of which only three were ever made.

No, the Durango of which we speak is the Italian former GP2, F3000 and Endurance team which has, in its past, achieved a relative level of success.

Why then, should I consider this bid to be somewhat fanciful? After all, isn’t GP2 supposed to provide the future of F1? Well yes, it is… only, Durango is no longer a part of GP2 having been forced out of the championship when it ran out of cash.

Durango’s fall from grace last year hit its peak on September 5th, when Il Gazzettino reported that Durango was being investigated for criminal tax evasion and fraud, and that it had been using a system of companies which constantly changed their names to issue bills with inflated figures in order to reduce costs and lower the payable tax. Indeed, it was claimed in Il Gazzettino that the system put in place at Durango had seen unreported revenue of more than €12 million, false invoicing amounting to €11 million, unpaid tax of €3 million and a reduction of base tax to the tune of €16 million. All of this came, so the article said, at the end of a one year investigation.

Durango’s time in GP2 was not short of controversy. From as early as Imola 2006 the team was in hot water for contravening regulations by manufacturing their own parts rather than using Dallara’s spec equipment. In Imola it was only the car’s skirts that were the issue, but when Lucas di Grassi’s rear wing fell off at Silverstone later that same season, Durango was excluded from the weekend and sent packing from the paddock after it was discovered the team had sought to cut corners by conducting a botch repair job on structural parts of the car, rather than returning those parts to Dallara for an official repair.

Talk of Durango’s corner cutting came to the fore once again just last season when Stefano Coletti was involved in a huge shunt at Spa, when his GP2/08 went straight on at Eau Rouge. A paddock insider that weekend whispered to me that Coletti’s steering column had “snapped like a piece of balsa wood,” although I could find no evidence to substantiate this claim from anyone at GP2 or Dallara.

When the championship arrived at Monza for the next race however, Durango only had one car at its disposal and there were two contrasting reasons given for this, depending on who you spoke to: namely that Durango didn’t have the money to repair the car, or that the car was so littered with botch repairs that Dallara had impounded it as being too unsafe to use. Again, I found it impossible to find an “on the record” response as to which of these was the accurate version of events but rumours that it was the latter refused to disappear.

The team was ultimately forced out of that weekend and did not race at all.

Stefano Coletti - Spa 2009 © GP2 Media Service

Durango missed the final two rounds of the 2009 Main Series, missed the entirety of the 2009/2010 GP2 Asia series and will not compete in the 2010 Main GP2 Series. They have, however, found the funds to launch an F1 team… or so Durango’s boss Ivone Pinton told the team’s website.

“After the mishaps of last season we went into action full force to seek new partners for our racing activities. It did not take long to realize that the interest could be raised only when there was talk of Formula 1, therefore we have pushed in this direction and today I can say that, enter the maximum formula, we have the support of two large international groups. So while remaining with their feet on the ground, because for now it is only a serious attempt, I would say that after working many years to train future champions, now is the time to work hard to push to the top as the Durango team. “

While I understand that it might be easier to drum up support for an F1 effort than a GP2 effort owing to the much higher levels of exposure in F1, what I do not understand is how a team which could not make a go of GP2 could even consider that they have what it takes to make a go of F1. After the USF1 debacle, and the StefanGP mess, the FIA will likely be wary of any and all 2011 proposals, and the due diligence on Durango is likely to be even more extensive than on most, given the very public financial issues which affected the squad so recently. Plus I’m pretty sure that if the team has found some money, then the first knock on their door is going to come from GP2 for unpaid bills and the serious fines that they will be contractually obliged to pay for two missed races and two entire missed championships.

Formula 1 cannot afford any more embarrassment from new teams falling by the wayside. That Campos / Hispania made it to the grid is nothing short of a miracle, and the aforementioned USF1 / StefanGP balls up did little for the sport’s image. As such, I wonder how seriously Durango’s bid will be taken.

When we have seen the likes of Prodrive, Lola and Epsilon passed over in favour of unknown entities which failed to make the grade, you can see why Durango would chance their arm. What have they got to lose?

But in all honesty you’d have to say that, regardless of the financial partners they might have got on board, so incredible does a Durango bid for F1 seem that it almost makes StefanGP look like a serious operation.

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21 thoughts on “Durango F1? Don’t make me laugh.

  1. On the plus side, if ever they got in they could supply some much-needed comedy (for those of us with a black sense of humour) during processional races. They’d be kind of like Andrea Moda.

  2. I don’t think USF1 not making it this year negatively affected F1’s image. I think if they had made it, given what we now know, then yes, maybe it would have. The problem isn’t just in the selection process, it is the short time teams have to develop and test their new cars. Expecting new teams to compete against established ones is unrealistic. Best to judge these efforts in their second year, not their first.

    Personally I’d like to see David Richards’ Prodrive in F1 racing as Aston Martin. Now THAT would be a name we could really get excited about in F1!

    • Hmmm, I see where you’re coming from… but Prodrive signed up to an F1 which allowed customer cars. Then Max changed the goal posts.

      I guess you could argue the same for USF1, Campos, Manor etc RE the budget cap though.

      • But Dave Richards wanted to buy the McLaren and Mercedes combniation of chassis and engine, arguably the best of the 2008 season. I am told the reason why the FIA failed to get customer chassis regulations approved was because Williams objected to Prodrive simply flashing their bank balance and getting instant success. Yet it apparently never occured to Dave Richards that the existing teams might object to this, because he never had a back-up plan in place.

        • And on the flip side you had Super Aguri, taking a year old crappy Honda chassis, improving it and outracing Fernando Alonso’s bang up to date McLaren. As a means of allowing new teams to join F1, the concept of the customer chassis made the most sense of all the recent proposals.

          Sell new teams a one year old car and let them make their own upgrades. New teams have a three year period in which they can use customer chassis, after which time they must use their own.

          Super Aguri were doing well on that basis until the arse fell out of their budget. And Toro Rosso did even better, winning a race. They’re now making their own cars and are a serious outfit in their own right.

          You can’t expect new teams to turn up and compete against 50 years of history without a slight leg up. The last team who tried to do that was Toyota and even with all the budget in the world they couldn’t make it work. That’s why I genuinely don’t see the problem with year old customer cars.

          • From a fan’s POV, what you say makes total sense.
            However, the way Bernie doles out the commercial rights $$$, some teams will never go for it.

            You think Williams, FI, STR or Sauber wants some upstart team being able to compete with them? That’s money out of their pocket.
            With Force India having 3x as many points as Williams right now, I wouldn’t be surprized if Frank starts harping about their (FI) cooperation deal with McLaren.
            And while McLaren is willing to help FI, it blocks Red Bull from using the Mercedes engine.
            Why??? Because Red Bull could score more points than McLaren.

            As long as the commercial rights $$$ is divided the way it is, the existing teams have no incentive to help any team, who could end up taking a bigger piece of their pie…

          • Jim, that is why I can see the age old Max and Bernie argument that the teams have too much power. Why vote for your own downfall?

            Bernie has always said democracy won’t work in F1, and I kind of agree with him on that. It needs a dictator of sorts.

            And if I’m being completely honest, do you know what really irked me about Williams’ opposition to customer cars? How did Sir Frank start his F1 team? Yep, running a customer March in 1977 before his own car was ready for the 1978 season.

            I understand that the teams want to protect their investment. But what use is their investment if no new blood comes into the sport and it dies when the big teams pull out?

          • I agree that F1 needs a dictator of sorts, but it should be a BENEVOLENT dictator appointed by the teams. Instead, it’s been run and pillaged by the Machiavellian duo of Bernie and Max for far too long. Bernie wants the teams bickering over anything possible. Divide and conquer is how he keeps the huge share of $$$ that he does.

            If F1 was set up and run like the NFL, then nobody would complain about much of anything. Everyone would be happy because they would be making money, instead of squabbling over Bernie’s table scraps, like they are now…

          • Will, the difference between Prodrive and Super Aguri and Toro Rosso is that Prodrive had every intention of running the then-current McLaren chassis; Super Aguri and Toro Rosso had old ones. While it’s unlikely that Prodrive would have been fighting for outright victories with the Mclaren chassis, there would have been a chance that they would have been besting the likes of Williams straight off the bat.

  3. What an interesting article.thanks.
    usf1 was a complete ambarassment to the fia and America for that matter.I never saw the link between that group of people and the US.It could have just as easily been (fill in the blank)F1,but they chose to bring it here.Thanks but no thanks.
    If a company like Prodrive finally decides to join F1 and is denied a second time ,then its our loss,and more shame on the fia.

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  7. Very good info Will!
    As you might imagine I am supporting Cypher Group to make the cut!

    But now Bernie says a decision won’t be made until sometime in August, in the next breath he gripes about the lack of performance from the new teams!!
    Well he is cutting the development time of the new Team by putting off making a decision!!

    Plus the new Team needs to front Bernie 16 mil. just for the spot. So any team that has that much cash to tie up should be good to go!!

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