18:37: Story updated with statement from Lola: see final paragraphs
Prodrive has stated its intention of concentrating on the World Rally Championship and sportscar racing next year, explicitly ruling out the possibility of a F1 entry.
The company, run by former BAR team principal David Richards, won a place on the 2008 grid but then declined to take it up following a dispute about the status of customer teams versus constructors.
It later applied for entry in 2010 but was overlooked in favour of the Manor/Virgin, Campos/Hispania, Lotus and USF1 bids – with questions later being raised about how closely acceptance onto the grid was tied to willingness to use Cosworth engines.
It was also thought to be in the running to buy a stake in the Renault F1 team – a deal that was instead concluded in December last year by Luxembourg-based investment firm Genii Capital.
Prodrive chairman David Richards said in today’s statement: “Our current focus is on Prodrive’s return to the World Rally Championship in 2011 and that alone takes significant resource to design and develop a totally new car.
“At the same time, we continue to expand our activities with Aston Martin in all categories of sportscar racing, in the USA, Europe and at Le Mans.
“We also have a full V8 Supercar series to contest in Australia with Ford, which together with further investment in advanced vehicle technologies for road car applications creates a very demanding agenda for the business.”
As well as its iconic rallying partnership of nearly 20 years with Subaru the company has achieved considerable success in launching Aston Martin to sportscar success including numerous wins in the American Le Mans series, class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and an impressive recent debut in the LMP1 category.
Richards continued: “Taking on the challenge of starting a brand new Formula One team, finding the necessary funding and developing the car from scratch is a massive undertaking and not to be underestimated.
“As expected, we’ve witnessed the financial and technical challenges that the new teams have faced this year in just getting to the grid, let alone being competitive and whilst I have enormous admiration for their efforts I don’t believe this is an appropriate strategy for Prodrive or Aston Martin to adopt.
“We’ve enjoyed a successful involvement in F1 in the past and respect the value it can create; we will therefore keep a close eye on developments in the Championship.
“However, I have always made it very clear that the timing for a Prodrive entry would be judged on two criteria: that we could be competitive and that the business case would make it a financially viable proposition. Today, if we were to adopt the strategy of starting a new team, I don’t believe it is possible to meet these two conditions.”
So there you have it. Prodrive will unequivocally not be entering Formula One in 2011, neither will it be entering from the back of the grid.
Those who feel that things are slightly out of kilter while the company remains outside the sport will have to wait for an established team to come up for sale under the right conditions.
• UPDATE: Since Prodrive issued its statement Lola has confirmed that it will also not be pursuing a F1 entry for 2011.
It said: “Lola will continue to remain a technology supplier to Formula One via its Technical Centre and manufacturing facilities in Huntingdon. Several other key industries, including aerospace, motorsport, automotive and defence, will continue to be serviced by Lola’s commercially-available technical capabilities.
“Lola are also set for their largest entry at Le Mans for thirty years in June when at least nine Lola designed and built LMP cars race in the 24 Hours. The first race of the European sports car season last weekend saw Lola finish 2nd and 3rd overall at the Paul Ricard 8 Hours event.”
Martin Birrane, the company’s executive chairman and owner, said: “A 2010 entry under the cost capped and performance balanced criteria would have been perfect for Lola. We already have F1 standard facilities at our headquarters in Huntingdon.
“Sadly our well-developed 2010 F1 project, which included a significant wind tunnel programme, had to be frozen in June 2009. The recently announced applications for 2011 has left us with insufficient time to prepare for what would be a quite different programme.”
Lola Managing Director, Robin Brundle (the elder brother of F1 commentator and ex-racer Martin), added: “Lola looks forward to strengthening its working partnerships with existing F1 Teams and the rich variety of customers throughout the Lola portfolio.”