Forti Corse, isn’t that a Formula One team that once drove in the 1990s in the Formula One and vanished after two or three seasons? It’s probably the answer you will hear if you as a Formula One fan about Forti Corse. However, the team is much more then just a failed project that went bankrupt after shady Shannon appeared on the radar and “sponsored” the team during the 1996 season. The beautiful Green-White FG03’s. Time to dive a bit in the history of the small Italian team that was once a Championship winning team!
Guido Forti, who lent his name to the team, and Paolo Guerci established the team in 1977 after they had . Guido himself drove with some success in the 1960s in the Formula 875 Monza. This was a lower Formulae series powered by a Fiat 500 engine. Similar to the Formula Ford. Understanding he was better in business and running a team then racing he started with Mauro Ghislieri a company named Gieffe Racing. This company provided spareparts for several race-series as well teamwear.
As mentioned in 1977 Guido Forti and Paolo Guerci established their own team Forti Corse. In 1977 with Teo Fabi behind the wheel of their Formula Ford 2000, Fabi managed to win the championship. As they had imminently success they tried their luck in the Formula Three. They purchased two March-Toyota Formula 3 cars for Teo Fabi who stayed with the team. Entering under the name Astra Racing Team they raced in the Italian Formula 3 and the European Formula 3 championship in 1978.
Teo Fabi won three races in the European series finishing 4th in the championship. The same results were achieved in the Italian Formula 3 championship. A year later the team would appear with success in the Argentinian Formula 3 championship. The team purchased a March 793 for Oscar Larrauri he managed to win several races.
Having raced in Argentina in 1979 Forti returned to Italia to compete a couple of seasons in the Italian Formula 3 championship. In 1980 they only appeared in the European Formula 3 championship with Oscar Larrauri as one of their drivers. More interesting is the fact that Enzo Coloni raced as well for the team one race in their March 783. In 1981 the team appeared once again in the European Formula 3 and the Italian Formula 3 with a Martini – Toyota their driver was Vinicio Salmi who had some good results.
In 1982 and 1983 Forti Corse appeared in the European Formula Three with Swiss driver Franco Forini and Italian driver Nicola Carboni. There was not much to celebrate regarding the results. In 1984 Forti Corse took a sabbatical, well it seems so I was unable to uncover any activity from the team.
In 1985 Forti entered the Italian Formula 3 again with Franco Forini, the team had one of their best seasons so far. Forini dominated the Italian Formula 3 and won the championship. The team also appeared in the European Formula 3 that year with Franco Forini and with Adrián Campos. In 1986 the team had not their best year, struggling with the Dallara Volkswagen all season Giorgio Montaldo and Nicola Marozzo scored some points. 1987 it went much better with the team Enrico Bertaggia won the title in the Italian Formula 3 while Forti also made it’s first appearance in the international Formula 3000 championship. In 1988 Emanuelle Naspetti won the Italian Formula 3 championship for Forti. While Bertaggia won the F3 race at Monaco and at Macau. Gianni Morbidrlli made his debut as well that year with Forti.
In 1989 Forti won again the Italian Formula 3 championship this time with Gianni Morbidelli behind the wheel of the Dallara. He won as well the European Formula Three Cup. It would be the last year Forti would win a championship race. In 1990 the team drove in the Italian Formula 3 with several drivers. Domenico Schiattarella, Fabiano Vandone, Alessandro Zampedri and Michele Minutolo. The results were so so during the season. The years to follow the team kept on racing in the Italian Formula 3 Championship as well in the International Formula 3000 championship. Having Andrea Montermini finishing as second in 1992. While other drivers like Olivier Beretta an Fabrizio de Simone.
It seems that around 1993 the team started to focus on their entry to the Formula One. In 1993 the team only appear in the International Formula 3000 championship with Olivier Beretta. He who would eventually race in the Formula One for the Larrousse team in 1994. Pedro Diniz was their other driver. In 1994 Pedro Diniz and Hideki Noda raced in the International Formula 3000 championship. Only one podium was scored by Noda. Though, the team was working on their Formula One entry.
Thanks to Pedro Diniz his network Guido Forti came in contact with Carlo Gancia who eventually purchased Paolo Guerci’s shares from Forti. Gancia managed to raise the needed funds for the team to start off their Formula One project. While most of the budget came from the Diniz family. Pedro Diniz and Roberto Moreno were hired to race for the team in 1995. The Forti FG01 was based on the designs of the unraced Fondmetal GR03 designed by Sergio Rinland for the 1993 season. In base the design was already two years old. Giorgio Stirano heavily modified the chassis which resulted in an interesting looking Forti FG01.
1995 was not that great for the team, while the FG01 got some improvements during the season there was another source that made the car unreliable. Best result was Pedro Diniz his 7th place during the Australian Grand Prix. While Moreno’s best result was a 14th place during the Belgium Grand Prix. The design for 1996 was already on it’s way and the team seemed to have the financial base in order with Pedro’s sponsors. However, Diniz would not stay at Forti and moved towards Ligier in 1996 included his sponsorship. This made it hard for Forti to have their financial situation in order.
For 1996 Luca Badoer and Andrea Montermini were contracted as their drivers. They had to drive the first few races with the modified Forti FG01B. In San Marino the newest Forti FG03 was shown to the public at the paddock. The car had a high-nose and looked sleeker then the FG01. While the financial situation became worst Guido Forti managed to sign a deal with the Irish based Shannon Group. Shannon already competed in the F3000 and had big plans for the Formula One. However, it all seemed to be a scam. While the FG03’s were in their new livery already, green-white, the team never received a single dollar.
Eventually, after a court came in between, Guido Forti regained control back over his team. The British Grand Prix would have been the last race for Forti, they arrived at the German Grand Prix though the cars were not assembled. The team ran out of money which meant that there was no money for engines. While the team folded, there were plans for 1997 to re-appear on the grid.