The last race of the 2005 season is held, the end of an era, the end of one of the most social and iconic teams in the Formula One. After 20 years the small Italian Scuderia Minardi team disappeared from the grid. Sold to Red Bull, which would re-name the team to Toro Rosso and would be Red Bull Racing’s B-Team. Though in 2006 Super Aguri would it’s debut as well. The impossible made possible, with in four months the team would be on the grid in Bahrain! Once again the Arrows A23, now as the Super Aguri SA05 would re-appear in the Formula One.
Previously in the Arrows A23 Saga I wrote about the Minardi PS04 which eventually would not make it’s debut on the grid in 2003 nor in 2004. The cars went back to the Minardi factory to collect dust. For over two years, the cars were not seen in public, when the news appeared that Paul Stoddart had sold the Minardi Team to Dietrich Mateschitz from Red Bull. His intention with the buyout? Re-brand the Minardi team to Toro Rosso (Italian for Red Bull) and use the team as proving ground for young talent.
While the Minardi team was sold, Paul Stoddart still owned the five Arrows A23 chassis standing in the corner of the factory. What would be the plan with the cars? Sell them, use them for promotion, and rebuild them to two and three seaters? Alternatively, would they re-appear on the grid? Around the time Stoddart sold the team there were strong rumours of an all Japanese Team to arrive on the grid next season. Honda already purchased the BAR team and kept Jenson Button as one of their drivers, so who was behind this all Japanese team?
On the 3th of October 2005, Takuma Sato told the BBC that he was not done with Formula One. He lost his seat when Honda purchased BAR. He mentioned that he was offered a seat for 2006. An unknown group of investors it seemed contacted Takusan if he was interested to race in the Formula One in 2006. The investors were keen to appear on the grid in 2006 with an All Japanese F1 team. Honda was said to agree to supply the team with the needed engines. What was going on? Only a few knew at that time that Aguri Suzuki a former Japanese F1 driver was planning to appear on the grid with his on Super Aguri F1 Team.
As far, I could figure out the first talks about the formation of the Super Aguri team held as early as February 2005. Honda Racing was looking for a second team to give Japanese talent the chance to race in the Formula One. It’s the same principle as Red Bull Racing did with Toro Rosso. Aguri Suzuki was approached by Honda to be the team’s principal. The same time it was a push to keep Takuma Sato in the Formula One. At that time his popularity if Japan couldn’t be bigger. Sato leaving the Formula One, would mean more or less a disaster for the Formula One in Japan.
Some sources mentioned that Super Aguri was already hiring people in March 2005. The plan; set up the team around May so there was plenty of time left to focus on the Super Aguri SA06 before it would debut in Bahrain. On the 1st of November 2005, Super Aguri registered itself with the intention to enter the Formula One in 2006. Were they already working on their car? The answer, Nope!
Only a month later on the 1st of December 2005 the FIA published the official entry lost for 2006.
Super Aguri was missing on the list, so what has happened. The team failed to pay the 48 million dollar entry fee a secure measure that a team is financially healthy enough. There was still an option left for the team to be allowed on the entry list. The team had to re-apply a second time. Because it was after the official deadline for 2006, it needed the unanimous consent of all the existing teams. All the teams expect for Midland F1 agreed.
Why did Midland disagree with the application for Super Aguri? Well Alex Shnaider purchased the Jordan Grand Prix team back in 2004 with his Midland group. It was known that he had soon regret his purchase of the Jordan Grand Prix team. There were even quotes of him telling he was to ditch the team even before the start of the 2006 season. It is a wonder the team appeared on the grid in Bahrain.
The reason he denied first application from Super Aguri was all about the money. They did not agree on the grounds of potential reduce of TV revenue. If you look during the season and eventually the deal made with Spyker you understand why. While the Midland M16 looked well designed, there was no interest what so ever from the Midland group to keep on investing in the team. The car lacked development and the needed money for it. Eventually Midland agreed with the entry of Super Aguri on the grid. On the 22nd of December 2005, Super Aguri appeared on the official entry list. It’s said that Bernie Ecclestone was involved to let Midland agree.
There was only one slight problem for Super Aguri, there was on car! Nor was the team close to develop their own Formula One car. Their intention was to use the BAR 007 which ran in 2005. The car was competitive enough to deal with the very few first races during the 2006 season. The team could update the aerodynamic package on the car to the 2006 regulations. Powered by the Honda V8 engine their start package look good. Sadly for the team, it was unable to use the BAR 007.
Honda Racing bought the BAR team during 2005, the rules stated in the Concorde agreement stated that the designs/blueprints of previous F1 cars could only be used of the team was folded. BAR did not fold; it was simply purchased by Honda. Which meant, that Super Aguri would not be able to use the car. Honda owned all the rights on BAR’s previous designs.
There was some downfall from Max Mosley, he stated that an solution was under way for the team. They would appear on Bahrain for the opening race for the season with two cars. What would be eventually the solution for the car problem? Paul Stoddart who still had the unused Arrows A23 chassis.
Were the Arrows A23 cars a serious temporarily solution for the team? Yes it was. Why would you use four-year-old cars if you can build your own cars you might say? The problem is the time you need to develop and build an F1 car. At that time, it was the only solution for the team to appear on the grid in 2006. The cars proven their reliability previously in 2003 when Minardi used them to compare. Additions to the chassis would be made for the 2006 regulations. As well, the car would be fitted with the Honda V8 engine instead of the Cosworth V10 engine.
Eventually Paul Stoddart sold the Arrows A23 chassis 01, 03, 04 and 05 to the team. Side note, it’s the chassis I could figure out that went to Super Aguri. As well, plenty of spare parts went to the team. While Super Aguri acquired the chassis the team could focus themselves on their own design 2006 challenger, and use the now Super Aguri SA05 as some kind of a test hack for their produced parts for 2006. The Super Aguri SA06 however would made it’s debut far in the season.
As said earlier the biggest difference for the Super Aguri SA05 was the engine. Originally, the car was to be fitted with the Cosworth V10 engine, now the Honda RA806E V8 engine would power the car. Another issue were the aerodynamic regulations for 2006. As the first test would reveal later in February 2006 the team failed to work on the new aerodynamics. The Super Aguri SA05 was nothing else than a white painted Arrows A23 with Honda on the rear wing.
Eventually the aerodynamics would be completely changed, brand new engine cover was designed for the car. The side pods hence became smaller and more efficient. New front and rear wings appeared on the Super Aguri SA05. The front wing had the “flaps” as they were popular back then. As well, the small wings just below T-cam were placed. However, the SA05 kept its characteristic twin keel. The car would still be recognizable as the Arrows A23 only heavily modified. While team manager Daniele Audetto told different to the media on 8th February. He assured the fans that the car would look like new.
Many believed Super Aguri would fail to do any pre-season testing with the car at all. Though on valentines day the team did it’s first shakedown with the Super Aguri SA05 at the Kemble airfield near Gloucestershire. Two trucks of the team arrived at the place with only one SA05 ready. Takuma Sato was the lucky one to do the shakedown of the car. Aguri Suzuki was presented as well at Kemble airfield. He told some media outlets there that the team would appear in Barcelona for three-day-testing later in February. As well, the plan was to do some testing in only a few days after at Silverstone. Suzuki said that the Super Aguri SA06 would appear at the start of the European season.
Side Note: When Super Aguri arrived at Kemble airfield the Arrows A23 chassis was slightly changed. The chassis wa wrapped in two plies of Carbon inside and outside. As well the Roll hoop was aluminium.
In the meantime, the team announced their second driver. It was known that Takuma Sato was the first driver of the team but who would be the second one? Rumoured were Sakon Yamamoto, Kosuke Matsuura and Franck Montagny. Two of them were already well know. However, Super Aguri decided to choose for the unknown Yuji Ide, which didn’t speak English at all!
The Super Aguri SA05 would made it’s official debut, still more the Arrows A23 then the heavily modified Super Aguri SA05 on the 21st of February 2006 at Circuito de Catalunya. Somehow team still had only one Super Aguri SA05 ready while the team had four cars. The team would do a three-day-testing and Takuma Sato would test on the first day with the car. Sadly on the first day of testing Takuma Sato was hampered by some hydraulic problems and eventually stall with a spin. He was only able to do eight rounds with a best set time of 1:30,244. Test results can be found here.
On the second day of testing, 22th February 2006, Yuji Ide took place behind the wheel of the Super Aguri SA05. He drove much more laps however at the end Ide was more than four second slower than Tiago Monteiro in the Midland, and more than 11 seconds slower than Kimi Räikkönen in his McLaren. Test results can be found here.
The last day of Testing Takuma Sato was back behind the wheel of the Super Aguri SA05. As well the times were much quicker than previous days. Sato was only 2,6 seconds slower than Christijan Albers in his Midland M16. While he was less than six seconds slower than Jenson Button who timed the fastest lap that day. Test results can be found here.
The main reason for the team to enter the three-day-testing was to expand the teams spirit and have the employees know each other better. As quotes by Mark Prestion, Chief Technical Officer:
“The team has delivered more than anyone imagined possible before we came to Barcelona and this makes us confident that our performance in Bahrain will be acceptable. Yuji performed well during his first F1 test and Taku has been pushing hard to increase the performance of the car. These three days have helped to gel the team together, and that includes both the Super Aguri Formula 1 and Honda personnel, who have been central in our getting to this test.”
On the 1st of March 2006, Super Aguri presented the Super Aguri SA05 officially. The car was now fitted with the aerodynamic package suitable to the 2006 regulations; as well, the car had a new livery with some sponsors on it. Due the bad weather, it was only two degrees and snowing!, the team was unable to some proper testing at Silverstone. As well, Midland F1 Racing was presented on the track; they only did some pit stop testing. Super Aguri was not able to test that much with the Super Aguri SA05. In total the team only tested 598,2 kilometres this was included the 30 kilometres of the shakedown at Kemble airfield.
It was the team’s intention to debut the Super Aguri SA06 as soon as possible, sources quoted even after four races in the season, the Super Aguri SA05 would appear during the first eleven Grand Prix’s of the season! The Super Aguri SA06 was an evolution of the Super Aguri SA05. The aerodynamics were improved as well a brand new suspension and a new quick shift gearbox. There was as well slightly more red, in the livery of the car. Eventually the Super Aguri SA06 was a big improvement compared to the Super Aguri SA05.
Still the team was able to improve in those eleven races the Super Aguri SA05. Obviously they were not the quickest and most of the time they were in the back of the field. Sato sometimes showed the potential of the car as he did at Indianapolis. Takuma Sato qualified himself on an excellent 18th place! With a 1:13,496 as time. He was only slightly slower than Nico Rosberg in his Williams was, though out qualified David Coulthard and Jarno Trulli. Both drivers failed however to finished the race.
Yuji Ide’s Formula One adventure was only for a short time. After four races the FIA took his super license away, he was too slow and he was more or less dangerous on the track you could say. Franck Montagny would take his place at Super Aguri he did a much better job though he was still the slowest on the grid.
What happened with the Super Aguri SA05 after Super Aguri said goodbye to the cars? That will be told in the next and final episode of the Arrows A23 Saga.