Giuseppe Cipriani announced that he was interested to enter the Formula One in 1992. There was only one problem; he did not had the infrastructure nor the facilities to build his own Formula One car. Therefore, he was looking into buying an existing team in the Formula One. Because why wouldn’t you, right?
The story goes deeper then someone saying he wants to appear on the grid with his own Formula One team. In 1991, the Ford HB V8 engines powered the Jordan Grand Prix team. It seems that Giuseppe was able to catch the engines from Jordan Grand Prix. Jordan Grand Prix on their hand stated that Ford was only to supply them therefore Eddie Jordan exterminated the contract they had. This would cost them eventually 2.5million pounds as Vickers and Cosworth did not agree.
At this point Il Barone Rampante acquired, it seemed, the engine from Jordan Grand Prix. Now all they needed was a team and they would be ready to race in 1992. This is the moment where Flavio Briatore comes in the picture. Another forgotten rumour in 1991 was the split between Walkinshaw and Briatore at the Benetton team. There was a chance that Jaguar could enter the Formula One. Tom Walkinshaw had his own TWR Company. Which had all the equipment and facilities needed to bring a Formula One team on the grid. With the split, which didn’t happen eventually, Flavio would bring the Benetton family to Il Barone Rampante if they were able to purchase Tyrrell. While TWR would take the Benetton, team and bring Jaguar on the grid. This is a story that deserves his own article soon.
It’s the 3rd of November 1991 at Adelaide. The Australian Grand Prix has just been completed, the last race of the season. Tyrrell saw Stefan Johansson finishing tenth while Satoru Nakajima had to retire. It would be the last race for the team they used the Honda engines. What 1992 would bring was unsure and unknown. Some were even suggesting that Tyrrell wouldn’t appear on the grid at all the next season. It’s the period where serious talks seems to have happened between Ken Tyrrell and Giuseppe Cipriani with the help of Flavio Briatore.
While ken insisted that, his team was not for sale and they would be on the grid in 1992. However, he was more than happy to relinquish a percentage of the team to a sponsor. Sources stated different and that he was in speaking terms with several consortiums at that time. It seems that Cipriani had made an offer of 4,5million pounds to purchase the Tyrrell team. Already knowing he had powerful engines it could become a good package. It even went this far that while Ken Tyrrell his team was registered as Tyrrell Racing Organisation Ltd., someone (assumable Giuseppe or Flavio) registered Team Tyrrell Ltd.
However, the purchase from the Tyrrell team to bring Il Barone Rampante on the grid in 1992 would not happen. The short the days become the longer it took before new news appeared. The same time Team Lotus was negotiating with Ford as well for the usage of the Ford HB V8 engines for coming season. While Lotus would eventually end up with the engines in 1992, they were also in contact with Judd as a back up to use their engines for 1992.
The days were shorter the news took longer. Until it was early December 1991 when Cipriani told that the deal went bust. He was no longer working on an entry for his team in 1992 in the Formula One. It is said that the offer he made was refused by Ken Tyrrell and was unable to bring more money on the table. Another story went that another consortium was looking into purchasing Tyrrell. It was said that Keith Wiggins from Pacific Racing and some engine tuner with custom Judd V10 engines were in the picture as well. Which wasn’t strange as Pacific was working on their Formula One entry as well. Eventually nothing was heard of this consortium at all. Pacific Racing would debut in 1994 and not in 1992 as they were focussing on.
Tyrrell Racing would not be sold, the team focused on their new season to come. While they were on speaking terms with Peugeot, Ilmor and Judd to deliver them V10 engines, the team was looking for drivers. Early in November 1991, it was rumoured in autosport that Christian Fittipaldi had almost secured one of the seats. While Michael Schumacher was also one of the candidates probably linked with Ilmor.
The team lacking the proper financial backing the decided to develop the Tyrrell 020 into the Tyrrell 020B for 1992. Eventually a deal was signed with Ilmor for 1992. While Comas and Fittipaldi were strongly rumoured for 1992 the team eventually choose for Olivier Grouillard and Andrea de Cesaris.
Il Barone Rampante is still competing to this day in the GT series.
Something interesting about this era is the fact that Mugen-Honda was testing it’s engines with an old Tyrrell 018 car. While, later in 1992, would use a Tyrrell 020 car to test. Both Tyrrells were fitted with Bridgestone developed F1 tyres. Volker Weidler and Johnny Herbert had the pleasure to test with this beauty. How about Mugen-Honda’s in the back of that Tyrrell 020B? We will never know.