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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Forti F1 Owner passes away

Italian Guido Forti has passed away at the age of 72 in Alessandria in northern Italy.

Best known for the Forti Corse F1 team that bore his name, I always thought of it as Forti Ford, He had plenty of success with his team in Formula 3 and Formula 3000 in the 1980's and early '90's before deciding to bring the name into Formula 1 in 1995.

He'd been working on the F1 project since 1992 when he met Abilio dos Santos a wealthy Brazilian with a son who wanted to go racing- one Pedro Diniz.

Pedro's family got huge sponsorship deals with Parmalat, Marlboro, Gillette, Duracell and others which formed the base of Forti's budget and all featured prominently on the yellow primary background colour of the FG-01. A mish-mash of sponsorship which any of todays teams would love to have, regardless of the visual incongruity.

The money enabled the team to work on the F1 dream.

Forti had a very modest budget of about 7.5 million to go F1 racing and, after designing the first Forti F1 car the FG-01 in a Pretorian Wind Tunnel, they had to put in the only engine they could afford, a Ford ED 3 litre V8. The car was the only one on the grid to sport a manual gearbox, all other teams had switched to semi-automatic on the steering wheel.

In the second car Forti hired Roberto Moreno who was far too good to race as a number two driver to Diniz. As Joe Saward said about the team in a review of the 1995 season
"The Forti was a fearful pile of junk and not even Roberto Moreno could make it go quickly. Diniz has some talent, but it will be his money which wins him a Ligier seat in 1996. Moreno should not have been driving for Forti. It was sad to watch"
Their lack of pace was shown up at the first race in Brazil where the cars were over 6 seconds behind Damon Hill on Pole in the Williams but in the race (no 107% rule) Diniz managed to finish even though he was last, seven laps down on Michael Schumacher, Moreno went off. The season was a solid, if poor first one for the team and they looked to improve in 1996 by acquiring a customer deal for the new Cosworth Ford JS 3 litre V8.

Things were looking up and then Diniz jumped ship with the family money and moved, as Joe had predicted, to Ligier.
Guido Forti went knocking on doors for some money to replace the teams entire budget, and, having renegotiated the Cosworth engine deal (downsizing to year old Ford Zetec-R V8 (ECA) which in an earlier version had given Benetton the 1994 WDC) there was no money left to develop the new chassis in time for the beginning of the '96 season.

The team went racing in a modified FG-01with ex-Ferrari man Cesare Fiorio appointed team manager and two italian drivers, Luca Badoer and Andrea Montermini. and the new car being completed by Chrisa Radage and Riccardo de Marco.

The FG03 was introduced at the Nurburgring and raced for the first time at Imola. It's speed brought the team closer to the Minardis at the back of the grid with Badoer calling it very agile.   But then an Irish registered Italian group called"the Shannon Group", offer much-needed finance, for a 51% stake of the team and Guido Forti accepted the offer. The cars were given a red, green and white paintjob for the Spanish GP on the first weekend of June, where they failed to qualify.  By the last weekend in June, at the French GP the game was pretty much up for Forti.  The Shannon Group claimed they owned the group while Guido said that no money had been paid over.

Forti had not paid for their engines as of yet and without the Shannon money had no chance of paying the debt off.  Even though both cars qualified in France the only completed a few laps before being retired having used up their engine mileage.  At the next race in Silverstone both cars ran in qualifying for two laps and then stopped out on track.

Guido went to court to get back control of the team but, with no engines and no money the team collapsed. The last privateer to enter F1 with minimal budget,