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1997
Projects 1970 - 1999

Unraced Projects of the 1997 season

In 1997 Jacques Villeneuve became world champion in a controversial last race, were Michael Schumacher at that time the leader in the championship deliberately rammed Villeneuve whilst trying to defend. While new comer Lola appeared, a year to early, on the grid under pressure of MasterCard. After the Brazilian Grand Prix the team would not re-appear on the circuit. Besides the attempt of Sosprini to take over the team.

Arrows – Volvo A18
Probably the first rumours appeared when Tom Walkinshaw took over the Arrows Formula One Team in 1996. Tom Walkinshaw was already active in the British Touring Car Championship (BTTC) with several Volvo 850’s who did a pretty good job in the championship. What I did not know until recent is the fact that Tom’s TWR Group was in collaboration with Volvo, both companies were active inthe joint venture called Auto Nova AB.  It would not be crazy to see the ArrowsA18 powered by Volvo in 1997. Read the full story here.

Dome  Mugen-Honda F105
In the autumn of 1995 Dome announced their Formula One project under the lead of former Scuderia Minardi team manager Tadashi Sasaki. In the summer of 1995 Akiyoshi Oku started to design the F105. As the car was completed on March 17,1996 the team announced the car a day later at the Spiral building in Tokyo. The Dome F105 was tested by Marco Apicella, Naoki Hattori, Shinji Nakano. The car was tested intensively during the season, as the team announced their plans to make their debut in 1997. Sadly due lack of sponsorship forced dome to cancel it plans to enter the Formula One.

Eyckmans F1 Team
During 1996 it is believed that Wim was seeking sponsors for his own Eyckmans Grand Prix team to enter F1. It seems Pennzoil and Royal Canin were his most likely targets as they had sponsored him previously in Formula 3000. Pennzoil however had already signed to sponsor the MasterCard Lola F1 Team.  But news emerged in April 1997 of Wim’s plans to work on an F1 team named Eyckmans Grand Prix which was announced by some as Eyckmans F1 Team. After the announcement though, everything went quiet around Wim Eyckmans and his plan to enter Formula One.

Ferrari two seater
Around 1997 teams tried to bring the Formula One closer to the fans. Teams as McLaren and later Arrows and Minardi (Tyrrell) designed two seaters. Arrows even appeared on the track with an 3-seater. McLaren was the first to bring a two-seater on the track the McLaren MP4-98T looked stylish and the passengers at a bit higher behind the driver. In a late edition of Autosport in 1997 an article, with drawings, of the Ferrari two-seater was published. The passenger was sitting next (!) to the driver. For me it is unclear how serious this attempt was from Ferrari to bring a two-seater as well on the track.

Forti Corse
In late 1996 Guido Forti re-appeared at the paddock. After his team folded because of Shannon, Guido kept on working to bring the team back on the grid in 1997.Guido stated that he founds a new major sponsor that was ready to invest in the team. Even rumours spread that the “new” Forti FG04 would be fitted with the ford engine or the Mecachrome engines.  As well Montermini to be one of Forti’s drivers for 1997. In the end, Forti would not make its comeback.

Lola – Ford T97/30
After Lola’s last Formula one car, the T93/30 used by Scuderia Italia, Eric Broadley started to pen a new Formula One car in late 1994 / early 1995. The Lola T95/30 was a mix of 1994 and 1995 regulations most interesting was the CART-ish look without the air box.  Due lack of finance Broadley decided to not appear on the grid in 1995 or 1996 but later. Originally, Lola was to make its debut in 1998 with a brand new car and with their own build Lola V10 engine. However, things went different.Mastercard came on board as main sponsor of the team. With the plan to sell special packages to their customers. Mastercard was pushing Broadley to have the car ready, and appear on the grid for the first race. We all know what happened… what if.. what if.. Read here my opinion about Mastercard and Lola.

Petra – Pacific
Did you know that Pacific was working on their comeback, even when it was known that Keith Wiggins was working for the Lola Mastercard team? In early February 1997 the news appeared that Pacific signed a deal with Malaysian company Petra,which was enable Pacific to make a major investment for the future.  The new name would be Petra – Pacific were Wiggins would act as managing-director under chairman Vinod Sekhar, at that time the boss of Petra. Believe it or not, their chief executive was John Byfield who was one of the consortium’s which bought Leyton House in December 1991.

Reynard F1 Team / Villeneuve Racing
In 1997 Jacques Villeneuve would become the world champion, and of course he was a bit different from others drivers in the Formula One. He was the only driver not to be mentioned in Grand Prix 3, as he did not want fans to drive as him (it seems).  A new chapter to his character would be add in 1997. When first the rumours appeared of Reynard planning once again their entry in the Grand Prix Racing. Previously Reynard worked on several F1 projects as you could read here and here.  During the Brazilian Grand Prix Villeneuve’s manager Craig Pollock and financial Advisor Julian Jakobi surfaced as possible team owners. Later that year Tyrrell Racing was sold to Pollock and consortium and would appear on the track as British American Racing with Villeneuve and Zonta as their drivers. Sadly BAR wasn’t the best team in Formula One’s history.

Sospiri Grand Prix
After Lola’s disastrous debut during the Australian Grand Prix, were the team didn’t manage to qualify the cars. The team folded after the Brazilian Grand Prix. Were the team arrived, and kept the cars in their pit box. It was well known that Lola would not re-appear on the grid. However, Vincenzo Sospiri did his best to keep Lola on the grid. He tried to find new sponsors to gain enough financial support. Vincenzo did manage to collect money, but not enough to keep the team on the grid.

Supernova F1 Team
As mentioned before, Supernova tried to enter the Formula One a couple of team. At least were looking for opportunities to enter the Formula One. Their plan was to enter the Formula One in 1997 and eventually 1998. Read the full story here.

Vanwall
During the 1970s and 80s the Vanwall cars were regular competitors during Historical Grand Prix weekends. There were even reunions with former Vanwall drivers and mechanics but no news about an eventual return of the team in Formula One.  That is, until the 26th June 1995 when the first news appeared of “strange rumours” regarding a revival of the Vanwall team. At that time it was not clear if the Vandervell family was behind the idea of reviving the team or that the rights to the name had been sold to an investment group interested in joining Formula One. Later it would emerge that the British engineering giant GKN had bought the rights to the Vanwall name and had recruited Mike Earl as team manager. Read the full story here.

Zaifa Motorsport
Malaysian Zaifa Motorsport team announced their plan in 1997 to aim of reaching Formula One by the year 2005. In 1998 the team was to debut in Formula Renault and hoped via other junior categories to reach the Formula One. Nothing was heard.