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The Orange Arrows formula 1 summer of 2002

It’s the summer of 2002, the Orange Arrows team from Tom Walkinshaw is on the edge of bankruptcy. It’s the summer Paul Stoddart loves to see Walkinshaw burning and will have the ultimate payback in 2003 when purchasing most of the team’s assets in favour of his Minardi team. Moreover, it is the summer of many rumours in and outside the paddock. Arrows is sold to an American, Arrows is declared bankruptcy, Arrows to return on the grid in 2003. What really happened in that hot summer of 2002?

Since I have UnracedF1, it seems my affection for the Orange Arrows team, and especially their last months. I wrote several articles already one of the best read is about the Arrows A23 Saga, which will be finished one day. As well my true believe that Jos Verstappen would be Arrows saviour if Tom Walkinshaw did not ditch him in favour for more money.  The more I look back at that era, the more I see the problems started with the Phoenix F1 project from Tom Walkinshaw and Charles Nickerson, another story that always pops up in my mind. A few years ago, I tried to make the story as complete as possible, even spoken with Charles Nickerson. Can be read here.

In a nutshell, Prost Grand Prix went into bankruptcy in 2001, there were several attempts made to save the team or to purchase the assets to start over as a new team.  Eventually Phoenix Grand Prix purchased the assets, however not the papers needed to start in a Grand Prix. While Tom and Charles believed, they did. Paul Stoddart got mad as hell for this move. He would keep hunting on them even after Phoenix disappeared.

The struggle for the Orange Arrows team happened in Australia when both cars were disqualified. The next Grand Prix the team showed its real potential. Though it was not a secret that the team needed money and quickly otherwise they would disappear from the grid. The drama unfolded quickly at Orange Arrows especially when Frentzen left the team, rumours went that he would drive the last four races of the season for Toyota Racing. The same time Tom Walkinshaw kept on saying he was on speaking terms with Morgan Grenfell to seek for opportunities to save the team.

Interesting is the fact that Huub Rothengatter and Tom Walkinshaw were on speaking terms to let Verstappen race instead of Frentzen. The same time both parties were in a lawsuit against each other.  While Orange Arrows was under way to the Hungaroring to race there. The trucks were ordered on the Tuesday for the race to return home as no duties were paid nor salaries. Still Orange Arrows appeared at Spa failed again to race. While the FIA set an ultimatum for the team in Monza, the team would not appear on a track any more.

Therefore, Goodbye Tom and Goodbye Orange Arrows a team that was loved and hated the same time by many fans, employees and drivers. Perhaps it was more a personal thing against Walkinshaw, who knows? Did this mean that there were no groups or investors interested to save the team. By either purchasing their assets or purchasing their license to race in the Formula One? Yes there were! Let’s dive into it.

We have to go back to April of that year; the first rumours seemed to appear in the media that Orange Arrows was for sale, for the right price of course. This is at the time that Phoenix Grand Prix changed it’s name to D.A.R.T. Grand Prix Team and changed it back to Phoenix Grand Prix. The rumours became more serious around the summer of 2002 when someone named Craig Pollock was pocking around at Walkinshaw to see if his team was available and for sale.

Craig Pollock and his mission impossible
Craig Pollock was the former boss of B.A.R. (British American Racing) well known for his relationship with Jacques Villeneuve. While Pollock denied at first he was looking into a purchase of Arrows he later came with the statement that he was for 80% certain he would purchase Orange Arrows. If I learned one thing in my 10 year of research when they name a number they won’t buy it. This is also the case with Pollock. However, what was behind this plan?  As said he was BAR’s former Team Boss and was kicked out of the team. Backed by a consortium of investors he was looking to return in the Formula One. He was for four months in discussion with Walkinshaw until he made another offer on the 8th of August. A week prior the Grand Prix of Hungary.

If they deal would happen he himself would hold 20% of the stakes in Arrows. While his backers, most from California, were to have the rest of the stakes in the team. Perhaps the plan was to restart the Villeneuve Grand Prix team to offer Jacques the top team he needed. Basically the idea with BAR. The team would be moved to the old Jaguar Racing factory at Milton Keynes. However, in late August Pollock told the media he was officially done with Orange Arrows and Tom Walkinshaw. He stated he was close to purchase the team, however not close enough.

Red Bull Racing
In June 2002 Red Bull published their plans for their own Formula One team. They were already sponsoring Sauber in the past as well Orange Arrows. Had several drivers they sponsored and were ready for the next step. How obvious would it be, purchasing the Arrows team from Tom Walkinshaw and go racing as Red Bull Racing in 2003. Well, it is not that simple it seems. On the 15th of July 2002 several media outlets published articles that Dietrich Mateschitz was to purchase the Orange Arrows team. It never happened. The story can be read here, about Red Bull’s their first attempts in the F1.

The 74-year-old mining billionaire
After the Belgium Grand Prix was held at Spa Tom Walkinshaw appeared in the news stating that there was a new group interested in purchasing the team. Carl Smith a 74-year-old billionaire from the states who earned his money in the mining industry. The statements even went this far that the team was already purchased. Smith was the founder of Amvest Corporation. Weeks passed with no new info about Carl Smith. Eventually only a small article randomly appeared in those days stating that Smith did not purchase Arrows.

The All American nightmare
Similar to USF1, who doesn’t remembers the toaster, in 2002 an American consortium was looking into buying an Formula One team. Somehow, they were able to have Dan Gurney and Phil Hill in their team to promote the plan. The rumours went that the consortium was to purchase the Orange Arrows team. The plan was to debut in 2003 or 2004 with an evolved Arrows A23 chassis, or with a new A24 chassis. Which never materialised just to be aware of the fact! The quick they appeared in the media the quicker they were never heard of, well linked with Arrows. It has to be said the All-American F1 Team became a dream that never materialised. The story can be read here.

A German Banker named Oliver Behring and some oil prince
Perhaps the most serious attempt to keep the Orange Arrows team on the grid for 2003. Even today, it is hard to find information about the mysterious German consortium called Asset Trust Partners. It was the holding company of German Grand Prix Racing GmbH. Their plan was to create an all-German Grand Prix team and have it debuted in 2003. Oliver already tried to purchase Prost Grand Prix in late 2001. Negotiations with Alain Prost didn’t go far. Most of the money came from a sheik in the middle east. While it seems they came close to purchase Orange Arrows in December 2002, eventually they were left empty handed. Orange Arrows would go into bankruptcy. The story can be read here.