I have written a couple articles already about the Pacific Grand Prix team which folded at the end of 1995. The team keeps on intriguing me as I keep on finding new information about their plans for 1996. The latest information I figured in my own archive is some information about Neil Brown and an unknown V10 engine, which would power the Pacific Team in 1996. Time to dedicate a new story about the aftermath and rumours of the 1996 season.
Where to start? As said, I’ve already written several stories regarding or mentioning the Pacific Grand Prix Team. As you can find all here. It may seems this story is double with sharing the same information. However, it is not. I don’t believe I covered late 1995 and 1996 clearly enough if it’s about the Pacific Team. Many rumours appeared and there is some evidence of the team’s future for 1996 and further. No, I am not pointing towards the Lotus and Super Nova connection to debut as Lotus Super Nova Racing in 1996 or 1997. By buying out Keith Wiggins.
Keith Wiggins returned with Pacific Grand Prix back to the Formula 3000 in 1996 resurrecting Pacific Racing with Oliver Tichy and Marc Gené. Leaving his Formula One dream for good. Pacific Racing showed some good results in the Formula 3000 however decided to quit the Formula 3000 in mid-season in 1997. All to focus on their attempt to enter Sportscar Racing and the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a heavily modified BRM P301. With no success in 1997 and 1998, Pacific Racing closed its doors for good.
Pacific Grand Prix’s plans for 1996
On the 4th of December 1995 Pacific announced it would not compete in the 1996 season, the team already made preparations for the new season. During the Belgium Grand Prix in 1995 Pacific Grand Prix suffered a public humiliation. When local bailiffs arrived at the circuit to seize some of the team’s assets because money was owned to Swiss engine preparation specialist Heini Mader. In 1994, Pacific was powered by the Ilmor V10 engines, which were prepared by Heini Mader and owned them still money. These were the first sign in 1995 that Pacific was struggling badly.
While Pacific Grand Prix was on the edge of bankruptcy during the season in 1995 Frank Coppuck, as far as my info states, was asked by the team to start working on the design of the PR02’s successor the PR03. The design of the car? I can only predict it, as it seems the any designs of the PR03 have been disappeared. While Coppuck was designing the car for 1996 Pacific announced on the 30th of October 1995, they agreed a deal with John Judd to supply them for the next season. In fact the engines were the ex-Yamaha V10 engines which were batched as Judd V10. Neil Brown was rumoured to prepare and service the engines. However, rumour say as well that he worked on a brand new engine which you will read later in the article.
The PR03 would probably follow the lines of the 1996 season, and a decent V10 engine would power the car. A good prospective if you ask me. Therefore, the team was actively looking for drivers. One of the drivers would have been Bertrand Gachot. As a shareholder and as a decent race driver this was an obvious choice. Oliver Gavin was rumoured to take the second seat. Oliver was not new at the team, Keith Wiggins asked Oliver to drive in 1994 the last race of the season. However, the story goes that Gavin was refused his super licence. There is circulating another story on the internet regarding this one-race deal.
While a new deal was said to be signed with supplier Good Year to supply the team with the needed rubber, the team was finalizing the budget to race in 1996. There were reports of some new sponsors for the team. Was it for real? It could be as well some kind of marketing trick to reach more potential sponsors.
Reading Keith Wiggins statement in December 1995 it states that Wiggins will rebuild the organization – Pacific Grand Prix – to take a look at a possible return in the Formula One when the financial situation in the F1 is less severe.
Pacific Grand Prix’s engine saga
Pacific Grand Prix’s engine saga? Yes, there were several suppliers rumoured to supply the team with engines for the new season. While the team announced their deal with John Judd to use his ex-Yamaha V10, 3.5L engines more suppliers were in the run for a contract. It is questionable how serious it was, and if the sign with Judd was already sealed as well!
Neil Brown was said to take the responsibility with his company Neil Brown Engineering to service and develop the Judd V10 engines. He appeared in another rumour, which involved Brown. A still unknown company announced they had a new V10 engine ready for teams to use. I am aware of the Reynolds Metals Company that was rumoured to build F1 engines. However, this would have been for 1997 and beyond.
There is also another rumour involving Al Melling. Melling used to work in the early 1990s for Scott Russel. In 1991, the company announced their new V8 engine ready to be tested in the back of an F1 car. Later on the company, rumoured though, arrived even with a brand new V10 and V12 engines. In my believe the Scott Russel V10 would have been used as base for the V10 engine.
However (Trivia), when I went deeper into it I got lost in the tales. The Scott Russel engine seems to be the base for the short-lived Ramel V10 engine which was announced in 1996. A company founded by Alan Randall. Only to find out that in 1997 the Mars V10 engine was to power the Lola T97/30 cars. Linked to the Mars V10 engine is the Powertech V10 engine in 1998 the forgotten attempt by GM to produce an F1 engine. To eventually end up as the Melling V10 engine around 2000. I will figure this out another time.
Some other rumours left? Yes!
Pacific – Lola PR03 – T97/30
After Pacific Grand Prix disappeared from the F1 grid soon the news appeared that the team has returned to Formula 3000 racing for 1996. However, the same time Keith Wiggins was looking to help Lola in their attempt to debut in 1998. First, he denied the rumours, later it was clear that Lola hired Keith Wiggins to put together a team structure. Chris Murphy rejoined the team in May 1996 to design the Lola T97/30. While Lola had the T95/30 still in their workshop, it is said that Chris Murphy used some of the unseen Pacific PR03 designs for the new Lola.
Petra – Pacific
In February 1997 there was another statement that suggested that Pacific lays her new foundation for an F1 return. Keith Wiggins made it no secret that he would like to return on the grid with Pacific Grand Prix. It seemed the future was bright when the team signed a deal with Malaysian company Petra, which would enable the team to make a major investment. Even though Wiggins was active for the Lola Mastercard team. The team’s name would have been Petra – Pacific with Wiggins acting as managing-director. Chairman was Vinod Sekhar the CEO of Petra. Chief executive was John Byfield, who was one of the consortium’s, which saved the Leyton House team in late 1991.
To quote Vinod Sekhar;
“”I saw in Pacific a company with limitless potential,” commented Sekhar. “There is a willingness to succeed and I believe we have a very exciting future. With our combined effort we can take Petra Pacific to the height of motor sport success.””
Sadly Pacific never returned to the grid, a few years ago their website went offline as well. Luckily it is still reachable via the Wayback machine! Or via this page.