Lets go back to the year 2002, Toyota appeared on the grid with their own team, while Renault took over the Benetton team. Prost was lost, and the Phoenix would not arise from its ashes. The future for Minardi and the Orange Arrows team? Well it wasn’t that good either. Arrows would leave mid-season. However, many attempts were made to save the team. So did Oliver Behring who came with his “ German Grand prix Racing ” team.
Many has been written about the Orange Arrows team in 2002. Their car, the A23, was a good-looking car and it was competitive. However, on managing level a lot went wrong, as example Jos Verstappen his contract. During the 2002 season, it became clear that the Arrows team was financially struggling. After the French Grandprix, it was all over for team and it went in bankruptcy.
In the aftermath, several groups were interested to take over the team, basically the team was still on the entry list for the 2003 season. However, there was one big problem most of the equipment and buildings were in the hands of TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing), basically you only bought the starting rights of the team. You had to invest millions yourself before you could start dreaming of an F1 entry in 2003.
One of the first attempts to take over the Arrows team already happened in August 2002, when Tom Walkinshaw announced that the team made a deal with a Wealthy American. Sources said it was Cal Smith who made his fortune, some said billions, with mining. Arrows said the deal was almost completed and Arrows would be saved. However, nothing happened.
Some later another rumour appeared of an All American team, led by Phil Hill and Dan Gurney, planning to take over the Arrows team and build a new team on the Arrows foundation. However, the All American team disappeared soon after it, until 2009 when USGP was announced but they failed anyway.
The most “serious” attempt to take rescue the Arrows team came from an unknown German Consortium by the name of Asset Trust Partners, which was the holding company of German Grand Prix Racing GmbH. You wouldn’t expect it but some Middle Eastern oil baron was the financial backer. I did read some names but I could not have it verified. Some say he created A1GP, some say I can’t say this. All I can say is that the Maktoum family was involved.
However, the man behind German Grand Prix Racing was 37 year old (now 53 years old) German banker Oliver Behring. Who was he? Well he was a banker with no experience in any form of motor sport, nor had anyone else in the company any experience in it. So why did they try to rescue the Arrows Team? Behring said in several interview he gave in 2002 and 2003 that he was acting on behalf of some Arab investors, who were interested in entering international motor racing. While he said this many times, he never mentioned any name. I did some more investigation into German Grand Prix Racing and its shareholder, and to be honest it taste as a fraud. As happened many times before. Remember the March team in November 1992? Who said they made a huge sponsor deal with Tamoil, however it was just a big fraud.
What was the big deal with Oliver Behring and German Grand Prix Racing? Well it seems he negotiated with Alan Prost in late 2001, to take over the Prost GP Team. At that time, Prost was in the same situation as Arrows would be a year later. While the negotiations between Prost and Behring failed, Behring’s company acquired a year later, in October 2002, 60% of the shares from the Arrows Team. Around 50million dollars it was. It had the same nasty taste as in 1999 when some Malik, a self-claimed prince from Nigeria, “bought” the Arrows team.
WThe 15th of November 2002 was the deadline for the teams to apply their teams on the entry list for the 2003 season. While Arrows still didn’t fill in their legal papers, it was assumed that they would appear on the list. A day later on the 16th of November the FIA received an apply for an entry for the 2003 season, by the Arrows team. So was Arrows saved? No not at all! The FIA still had to decide if they would accept the team. However, Behring said to media that there is a 99,95% change that the team would be present at the first race of 2003.
While Tom Walkinshaw had some conflicts with former shareholder Morgan Grenfell, Behring said that Morgan Grenfell was now out of the picture, and that the only “small” problem was some ongoing court case in London between Arrows and Morgen Grenfell over the shares in the team. When I tried to contact the bank, I didn’t receive any feedback if Behring ever contacted them, so I’m not sure what was going on there. So Behring told the media he was sure the team would be present at the first race of 2003 and even named Jos Verstappen and Enrique Bernoldi as potential drivers, even Alonso was rumoured, interesting isn’t it?
From this point on the story gets very confusing and as there was and still is a lot of mismatching information on the web but also in magazines and in papers. The problem is that Morgan Grenfell, as far as I know, never saw (cash) money to pay de debts the Arrows team had. While Bering said, everything was solved. This was in late November, and not before the 9th of December, Tom Walkinshaw and the Bank would appear again in the courtyard, so this is one of the red flags already for the German Grand Prix Racing team. The same time almost all of the teams believed the Arrows team or German Grand Prix Racing had any rights to appear on the grid in 2003, as the teams’ financial situation was poor.
On the 2nd of December, the FIA published the official entry list, and Arrows nor German Grand Prix Racing appeared on it. Only 10 teams were presented on the list, and would appear on the Australian Grid. The best part of all, which shown another big red flag, was that there came no reaction from the Arrows team. They didn’t denied it, they didn’t answer on it, nothing! The biggest red flag had yet to come from Behring. On the 5th of December he said to the German newsagency DPA “I have set a deadline for the team to get a solution to the problem of its Formula 1 entry and if the deadline is not met he will pull out of the planned sale”.
A week later on the 12th of December DPA announced that Behring cancelled the contract they had with Arrows. Behring seemed surprised that the team did not receive an entry for 2003. Well if you ask me, pure bullshit. If he really had the money, he would pay it. Not long after the Arrows team was closed down, and Minardi would later take over some of the equipment of the team, and even later Aguri Suzuki would use the Arrows A23 as their first car, even years later that car was still competitive at some point.
So what happened with the German Grand Prix Racing plans? Well let me explain it in a next post. Something with Minardi, Jordan and Jaguar Racing.
Sources: Allaboutarrows.co.uk / Autosport.com / Grandprix.com / Verstappen.nl / DPA newsagency / Autosport Magazine / F1 Racing magazine / Formule 1 Magazine / Racereport Magazine / own archive