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Minardi PS04
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Arrows A23 Saga: Minardi PS04 – Part 2

Here we are again at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit for the opening race of the 2003 season. Verstappen made a deal with the Minardi F1 Team, Frentzen would race his last season in the Formula One with Sauber and Michael Schumacher was already dominating the season without racing one single lap. Arrows Grand Prix International was just a faded memory of the past. The team was, the Arrows A23 wasn’t. The car would re-appear on a Sunny day in September rebranded as the Minardi PS04.

Not all hope was gone for Orange Arrows as you could read in Part 1 of the Arrows A23 Saga. Despite failing to complete the 2002 season due to financial difficulties and mismanagement the Arrows team made a new application for admission to the 2003 Championship.  It was quickly rejected by the FIA prior to the season start. No reason was given by the FIA. However, the rumours went on internet that Arrows already worked during the 2002 season on the successor of the Arrows A23, the A24, recently I debunked these stories. The team had ideas of the car, as it would be an evolution of the Arrows A23, some blue prints were perhaps made but no evidence what so ever can be found of the existing of the Arrows A24. Subsequently folded after 25 years in the Formula One.

So what happened after the Belgium Grand Prix in 2002 and the moment Paul Stoddart purchased on the 17th of June 2003 lot 2496, which surprisingly were five rolling Arrows A23 chassis at an on-line auction? To be honest I have no clue and there is almost no information about the where about of the A23 cars after Arrows went into liquidation up to the moment the cars came for sale. Probably they were stocked in a warehouse but I’m not sure.

All I know is the fact that Paul Stoddart bought a lot of the Arrows Assets during the online-auction conducted by DoveBid in favour of liquidator UK-based PKF. This serves him some credits as he did anything he could to let the Minardi F1 Team survive, second of all to make the team more competitive. So what did Paul Stoddart purchase during the online-auction.
– Five Arrows A23 Chassis (which of two were in mint condition).
– Spares for the A23 (literally thousands and thousands of parts).
– The A23 gearboxes.
– Pit equipment of the team.
– A23 drawnings/blueprints.
– Arrows Grand Prix International archive included included the historical drawings.
– All Hydraulic test rigs.
Basically all the equipment Arrows used for the Arrows a23.

However, Paul Stoddart told to Pitpass on the 23th of June 2003 that it didn’t cost him nor the team a single penny to buy all the equipment. At that time Minardi was near broke, there were even doubts the team would survive. How could they afford it? The answer makes sense though is a part of Minardi History many forgot. Before the auction was held F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone himself bought a stake in the Minardi Team. Ecclestone’s money as well the money from the sponsors allowed the team to buy all the assets of the former Orange Arrows team.

Before we continue perhaps it’s a good thing to tell a bit about Paul Stoddart. Currently he drives his former Minardi X2 cars, basically the Tyrrell 026s from 1998, every race weekend to entertain people with too much money in their pocket. Though, mostly to entertain everyone with the amazing V10 engines in it. Before all of this Paul Stoddart was the owner of European Aviation an aviation company. Like Frits van Eerd had today, Stoddart used to have a  private collection with Tyrrell’s which he raced with every now and then.

im not aware if he still has them as rumours went in 2003 he sold a couple of them. In 2001 he rescued Minardi from disappearing of the grid by buying the team and do a hell of a job by bringing the Minardi PS01 on the grid in just a couple of weeks. Years before Paul Stoddart offered Ken Tyrrell 25million dollar to take over the team.

It did not last long before it was known that Paul Stoddart purchased many lots during an auction of the folded Arrows team. Immediately the rumours appear that Minardi was to use the Arrows A23 for the rest of the season in 2003. The car did show it’s potential in 2002 and would have been much better If it was kept on development. However, Paul Stoddart did not have the intention to use the Arrows A23 to race the rest of the races, of a couple of races in 2003.

For the matter the A23 would be re-branded as Minardi PS04, while the Minardi in 2004 was named the Minardi PS04B. The purchase was a smart move with this the engineers at Minardi could compare the Minardi PS03 with the Minardi PS04. As well the team was able now to make improvements on the PS03 using the Minardi PS04. Minardi intended to test both the Minardi PS03 and the Minardi PS04 (former Arrows A23) In a comparison test. To see which car was the fastest and to figure out if the team could use the data and aerodynamics on the cars.

There was another reason to buy the assets of the Arrows Team. Many seem to forget that the Minardi PS03 was developed on the fact that Minardi would use Michelin tyres in 2003 as the team did in 2002. Michelin did not renew the contract with Minardi due the unstable financial situation. The result, Minardi arrived during the test session at Valencia in February 2003 with Avon Tyres these were for the use in F3000.  It has to be said Minardi arrived there with the Minardi PS01 from 2001 powered by the European V10 batched Ford Zetec-R from 1998. Mclaren had a similar situation that season with their MP4-17D.
Therefore Minardi was forced to sign a contract with Bridgestone, while Stoddart wanted the tyres for free, Bridgestone insisted they should pay for the tyres.  On the 18th of February 2003 the deal was finally signed.

Minardi was to test with both the Arrows A23 which became the Minardi PS04 and with the Minardi PS03.  This two days test was scheduled just after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello. However, on the 13th of September Minardi arrived at the Santa Pod with a couple Minardi engineers  to give the Minardi PS04, some media spoke about the Minardi PS03B, it’s first shakedown and some straight-line testing. No times or data were published by the team. Kiesa told the media that he was impressed by the performance of the car in comparison to the exiting PS03. Probably point out to the acceleration and straight-line speed of the PS04.

Mugello testing 16 September 2003 (Weather sunny – Dry – No wind and 26 degrees)
On the 16th of September 2003 European Minardi arrives on the Mugello circuit for a two days test.   To compare both the Arrows A23, which is now re-named as the Minardi PS04, and the Minardi PS03. A few days earlier engineers from Minardi prepared one of the Arrows A23 cars for Nicolas Kiesa. He did some straight runs with the car at Santa Pod. Both Jos Verstappen and Nicolas Kiesa drove the cars.
Side note 1: Verstappen would finally be driving with the car that was built around him by Arrows.
Side note 2: It was said that Minardi was having a two days test session. I could not find any information about it.
Results Jos Verstappen:
Fastest Time Minardi PS03: 1:25.439 (27 Laps).
Fastest Time Minardi PS04: 1:25.622 (27 Laps).

Results Nicolas Kiesa:
Fastest Time Minardi PS03: 1:28.455 (19 Laps).
Fastest Time Minardi PS04: 1:28.148 (15 Laps).

In-between the testing Jos Verstappen told that both cars were impossible to compare as they were completely different. This made it hard to find a good setup. As well the Arrows A23 was technically not changed from it’s original design. The only difference between the A23 and the PS04 was the European Minardi livery instead of the Orange Arrows livery.

After the comparison test Verstappen told on his own website that there was more potential In the PS04 as was just shown during the test session. As there were more setup options to fiddle around with. At the end of the Day Verstappen was able to set some quicker laps. As well the car showed much more downforce and grip compared to the Minardi PS03.

Kiesa was also quiet surprised by the cars handling.
“I wasn’t able to do that many laps in the PS04, but when I did run on a new set of tyres, it was immediately obvious that the level of grip is absolutely amazing. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt as much grip in a race car in my life. Before I went out, I was aware of the time Jos set in the PS04, which was very good, but when I felt how much grip there was, I understood how he done the time.”

“I had a problem with the PS04 early in my run, and had to return to the garage, but after that, I managed four timed laps, with the best time a little better than I managed in the PS03. The handling of the car was consistent and didn’t degrade over the run, although it has to be said the PS03 was very good to drive here as well. The brakes on both cars are excellent, although the slightly higher level of downforce on the PS04 means it can stop a little quicker. Overall, I’m happy with how today went.”

Mugello Testing 1 October 2003 (Weather Sunny – Dry – No Wind and 22 degrees)
After the first comparing test the engineers started to work on the Arrows A23 to see if they could improve the car’s behaviour. In two weeks a lot can happen with in the Formula One. Minardi already knew at this point that they would use the Arrows A23 as base for their new challenge the “real” PS04 that would race in 2004.  Minardi arrived with two cars Chassis PS04/01 and PS04/04. Verstappen had to switch cars early as the car had gear problems. The second car had problems with the fuel consumption. Besides Minardi, also B.A.R. and Ferrari were testing. Below the results.
Testing results:
1:22.259              Luca Badoer                      Ferrari
1:22.841              Felipe Massa                    Ferrari
1:23.559              Takuma Sato                    B.A.R.
1:24.213              Anthony Davidson           B.A.R.
1:24.707              Jos Verstappen                Minardi  (59 Laps).

Verstappen was much faster this time in the Minardi PS04 then he was during the first test session. The team changed the rear end of the car at the first test which was two weeks before. As well the height of the car was changed. What helped as well were the mechanics who had more feeling and know how with the PS04.

“You need to test a lot to book enough progress. In comparison to the previous test we gained 1 second. This afternoon was almost without any hickups. The conditions were similar, so we can say the two tests were a fair comparison. What next? Tomorrow we will have to analyse all the data and that will give us some more information. For now we have to say that the tests with the PS04 were very useful.”

While Paul Stoddart with his engineers decided to use the Arrows A23 as the base for their new Minardi PS04B, as the PS04 was used for the testing purpose and rebranding of the Arrows A23. The team put the A23 chassis’ away in the corner of their factory.  The Minardi PS04B was a big improvement over the Minardi PS03. Zsolt Baumgartner even scored a point during the crazy race at Indy. However, the results showed that Minardi was still too slow to be competitive and be able to attack the teams as Toyota, B.A.R. and Sauber.

Today there is at least one Minardi PS04 left. The PS04 Chassis 01 is on a ferry from Seajets.

However, this was not the end for the Arrows A23. The car would re-appear on the grid in 2006 when Super Aguri made it’s debut. The team bought the Arrows A23’s which Paul Stoddart still had. You will read next time in The Arrows A23 Saga: Super Aguri SA05 – part 3