Saturday, January 28, 2006
Other sports: FIA greenlights Super Aguri
By Alan Baldwin
London, England - Formula 1 will have 11 teams this season after the sport's governing body confirmed Japan's Super Aguri as a new entrant on Thursday (January 16).
The Honda-powered team's application was initially rejected after a $48-million (about R293-million) bond was not paid by a November deadline; its arrival now puts 22 cars on the starting grid for the first time since the demise of Arrows in late 2002.
The last newcomer, in a sport where the top teams spend well in excess of $200-million (R1.2-billion) a year, was Japanese car giant Toyota in 2002.
The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement: "The FIA has accepted the late entry of the Super Aguri F1 team to the 2006 FIA Formula 1 world championship, following receipt of the necessary financial guarantee and with the unanimous support of the competing teams.
Former Japanese racer Aguri Suzuki, the team principal and founder, welcomed the news.
"I am thankful for the support we received from all of the other F1 teams and we look forward to seeing them soon," he said.
"Our team members are doing their best to make sure that we are on the grid in Bahrain - and I am confident that we will make it."
Super Aguri has taken over the old Arrows factory in Oxfordshire, in central England, and is racing against time to be ready for the start of the season on March 12.
It has yet to name any race drivers, although one of the two is certain to be Japan's Takuma Sato after he was dropped last year by BAR - now renamed as Honda Racing F1.
Suzuki himself started 88 Grands Prix and was the first Japanese to stand on a Formula 1 podium; he said last year his goal was to build a team that Sato would want to drive for. A number of other Japanese drivers have been linked to the fledgling team and Suzuki said an announcement would be made soon.
Suzuki's partner Fumio Akita said: "Final negotiations are still under way, but Sato will probably drive in the team's No1 car."
Akita said the team was also in negotiation with several other drivers from Japan, Europe, and North American.
Honda's British test driver Anthony Davidson could be an eventual option, although Honda wants him as its Friday tester at grand prix weekends.
Super Aguri is working on a new car but intends to start the season with old Arrows bought from ex-Minardi boss Paul Stoddart. Japan's Bridgestone have been approached for tyres.
Team managing director Daniele Audetto said: "Of course we do not expect to be on the pace straight away.
"We will use the first GPs to train the team before our definitive car reaches the track."
Honda is providing the engines but will otherwise concentrate on its own team.
Honda team boss Nick Fry said in Wednesday in Barcelona: "They share an engine - but at the moment we are focused on doing the best we can and can't be distracted from that."
Suzuki has in any case ruled out being a Honda "B" team: "We are a Japanese team, that's very important," he said, "but we aren't Honda's B team by any means.
"Our goal is to see the Japanese flag raised above the podium." - Reuters