A ‘madman’s’ shark-shaped dream – Inside the unique A1GP


The A1GP World Cup of Motorsport was a spectacular and eventful, however finally short-lived, try to put nation versus nation competitors on the forefront of motor racing.

Strikes are afoot to revive it, with Sky Information first to report on the plans on the weekend.

Having been a part of A1GP chassis provider Lola on the time, The Race’s Sam Smith has some fairly epic reminiscences of what it took to get the unique sequence off the bottom.

He seems to be again, and provides his tackle whether or not a revival could be believable.

The genesis of A1GP

A1gp Championship 2005, Round 8, Sentul Circuit

Virtually 20 years in the past, within the spring of 2004, as head of communications at Lola Automobiles Worldwide Ltd on the time, I used to be summoned to a gathering. It was on the again of a name out of the blue by somebody purporting to be representing a member of the Dubai royal household.

They wished to go to Lola to debate a potential deal to design and assemble a lot of vehicles for a brand new sequence that was being deliberate for 2005. There have been no different particulars as I recall.

At that assembly there have been round eight folks current, yours really included. The visitor arrived in a blacked out Mercedes E Class, with a second car that had safety in tow. If that was a ruse, which there have been suspicions of, then they had been doing it correctly.

A1gp Championship 2005, Round 1, Brands Hatch

On the head of the desk sat a slight man with receding hair. This was Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum, a cousin of the ruler of Dubai and a identified motorsport fan and occasional participant as a driver.

He was affable and right down to earth however he was forthright in what he wished.

At one stage in the course of the assembly, he turned to our chief designer, Julian Sole, and mentioned: “I need you to make this automotive appear like a shark.”

A1gp Championship 2005, Round 1, Brands Hatch

My boss, managing director of Lola on the time, was Rupert Manwaring. He had seen and heard nearly every part in motorsport over a profession that encompassed positions at Brabham, Lotus, Tyrrell and Minardi, however we exchanged curious seems to be when this was uttered.

Grabbing a pen and a bit of A4 paper, the Sheikh started to attract a crude picture of his imaginative and prescient. It did embrace shark-like qualities of a pointed nostril and a big fin for an engine cowl. In my thoughts I turned Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) within the epic movie Jaws. “You’re gonna want an even bigger boat” was what my thoughts was telling me.

However in some way it occurred. Round three weeks later deposits had been within the Lola coffers and the previous Lola B02/50 Formulation 3000 tubs had been agreed upon to host this new formulation, which glided by the identify of A1 Grand Prix, the World Cup of Motorsport.

A1gp Championship 2005, Round 1, Brands Hatch

It could be the most important single order of race vehicles ever, 50 race vehicles in complete and round 4 spares. On the time it probably went some method to guaranteeing that Lola was capable of enterprise on, albeit briefly, into the second decade of the twenty first century within the Martin Birrane-era.

Underneath 9 months later a mule automotive was being examined at Hethel. The one downside was the great Sheikh wished to be the primary to check it!

The mad prep part

Festival Of Speed, Goodwood

At that take a look at the temperature was round 4C and there was a dampness that solely East Anglia in February may create. The kind that can by no means dry out.

The A1GP working prototype was basically an F3000 automotive with that requested marine-life bodywork dressing it. Former sportscar driver Ben Devlin was tasked to conduct the take a look at however Maktoum insisted he be the primary to run, as was his need contemplating he was fronting the sequence.

There have been many reservations, nevertheless. Maktoum’s sole expertise at that stage was driving in native touring automotive and sportscar occasions. A 650bhp single seater on a freezing chilly day at Hethel was a really new problem, and so it proved.

After a number of makes an attempt to grasp the clutch, Maktoum obtained so far as the second nook earlier than a lazy looping spin and subsequent stall ensured there was a masterclass of a false begin to the genesis of the mission.

Finally he obtained going and some laps had been accomplished earlier than Devlin took over for extra related operating.

That prototype was examined a number of extra instances in hotter climes earlier than the manufacturing vehicles started to be inbuilt April 2005.

A1 Grand Prix Series 2005, Demonstration Lausitzring

Someway by mid-August there was a grid of vehicles. The Lola meeting space resembled a struggle zone as further contractors had been drafted in and even the writer partook in a couple of ‘all-nighters’ fetching outsourced components and pizzas!

Finally the final automotive left the manufacturing unit, and it was, in opposition to vital odds, time to go racing.

The racing

A1gp Championship 2005, Round 1, Brands Hatch

“That is the best idea with the best automotive on the proper time. And if I can pull it off…then whoosh,” Maktoum instructed The Guardian newspaper in the summertime of 2005. He was by no means wanting confidence.

“This shall be a £2bn enterprise by the point we get into the second 12 months. Solely a madman like me can provide you with an thought like this. However I’ve gone from being known as a madman to dreamer to visionary in a really brief time.”

There was some substance behind the promise. Franchises had been wolfed up. Nice Britain, United States, India, Switzerland, Brazil and Germany had been on the grid as Manufacturers Hatch beckoned.

A1gp Championship 2005, Round 1, Brands Hatch

Nobody knew what to anticipate. However Manufacturers was close to sufficient a sell-out. The place regarded immaculate. There was stay Sky TV protection with a pukka exterior broadcasting studio, with the superb Ben Edwards and John Watson reprising their Eurosport F1 commentary alliance.

Racing luminaries akin to Emerson Fittipaldi, Jan Lammers, Alan Jones, John Surtees, and Willi Weber had been concerned, as had been South African politician Tokyo Sexwale and Manchester United soccer coach Carlos Queiroz, who put their names to South African and Portuguese groups. Even the unique Ronaldo had a stake within the Brazilian squad, which had GP2 hotshoe Nelson Piquet Jr within the cockpit.

The cataclysmic shunts

A1gp Championship 2005, Round 4, Eastern Creek, Sydney

Throughout that first season there have been a lot of vital shunts because the highly effective vehicles, within the arms of let’s say moderately novice drivers, did their finest to offer Lola engineers a radical cardio exercise.

It began early when Lebanese driver Khalil Beschir was tipped right into a horrendous-looking flip at Paddock Hill Bend. He emerged unharmed however stole some headlines from a dominant Piquet, who took each Manufacturers races at a relative canter.

A1gp Championship 2005, Round 1, Brands Hatch

A lot worse to return at spherical 4 when A1 Group Japan racer Hayanari Shimoda utterly destroyed his Lola in opposition to an earth financial institution at Japanese Creek’s daunting first nook.

Upon receiving the wreck, which got here in a number of totally different containers, at Lola some weeks later, then composites supervisor Craig Turner requested if Shimoda’s memorial service had already taken place.

A1gp Championship 2005, Round 4, Eastern Creek, Sydney

It was a little bit of black comedy after all, as the motive force was OK, however such was the injury inflicted to the automotive that Shimoda’s escape was thought of one thing of a miracle. The metal plinths beneath the torn-off rollhoop had been uncovered, as was the gas cell itself.

Might all of it occur once more?

A1gp 2008/09, Rd 7, Brands Hatch

Information {that a} new variant of A1GP is being mooted just isn’t an enormous shock as a result of the idea was so good.

The World Cup theme existed earlier than A1GP with Dan Partel’s annual EFDA-inspired Formulation Vauxhall Lotus world cup, which was normally held at Estoril within the late Nineteen Eighties and early Nineties.

A1GP was on a a lot greater scale and was, initially not less than, nicely organised and steady, with an on the spot attraction for brand spanking new demographics of followers because of the on the spot recognition of the liveries.

A1gp Championship 2005, Round 1, Brands Hatch

Nevertheless it’s one factor to reanimate a pleasant thought and fairly one other to construct a steady championship and feed that beast yearly.

That would be the hope of the Origin Sports activities Group, a sports activities funding agency which has been concerned within the America’s Cup World Collection and the Invictus Video games earlier than.

Its founder, Sir Keith Mills, who headed up London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Video games is, in response to Sky Sports activities, ‘performing as a senior adviser to the enterprise’.

Former Jordan, Benetton/Renault and Toyota F1 technical chief Mike Gascoyne has additionally been named as ‘an adviser’.

Formulation E, the final main worldwide single-seater championship to be based in 2014, successfully ‘died’ three races in and was solely rescued by the Liberty International media behemoth.

A1GP began to crumble when a succession of poorly conceived modifications had been made to the {hardware}. A component of seduction by Ferrari proved too tempting for some vested pursuits inside the championship and all of it imploded amid acrimony, and a number of unpaid payments and authorized threats.

After Adam Carroll took the ultimate title for A1 Group Eire, the 2009-10 season finally didn’t occur as the cash ran out. A number of of the vehicles had been loaned and bought out to Enzo and Paulo Coloni for his or her rejigged F3000 sequence which finally turned often called Auto GP.

Plans for an A1GP rebirth have occurred earlier than. In 2019 the AFRIX GP organisation talked up plans for a pan-African sequence utilizing the unique 4.5-litre usually aspirated Ferrari V8s engines. It got here to nothing.

The current potentialities although have some attention-grabbing elements. Marcin Budkowski, the previous FIA man whose final F1 position was at Alpine, has declared himself on social media to be the mission’s CEO. The Race additionally understands that present McLaren Utilized government chairman Nick Fry and ex-F1 exec Sean Bratches have been concerned as consultants.

If a brand new A1GP had been to stand up and operating the jeopardy could be enormous. But historical past tells us that taking a comparatively regular strategy technically and sportingly at the side of a powerful media platform may construct a brand new strand of the game.

One key query that can must be answered is: can a brand new racing sequence simply exist for the racing’s sake or does there must be a function?

A1gp 2007/08, Rd 8, Mexico City

The world is altering, each actually and metaphorically, nearly by the month now. Environmental and social consciousness are a significant consideration for any enterprise. Working ‘eco-fuel’, as has been urged, is a small contribution and probably not sufficient of a message.

Time will inform on that. However ought to the brand new brewers of A1GP have a correct enterprise case, an honest sporting mannequin and a few luck alongside the way in which then a second epoch of the World Cup of Motorsport stands an opportunity.

Additionally, who’s to say that finally such a championship, if it turns into established, couldn’t even finally cross over into an Olympic self-discipline?

The FIA is at present collaborating with the Worldwide Olympic Committee (IOC) and Polyphony Digital Inc by taking part within the Olympic Esports Collection 2023 Motor Sport Occasion. Gran Turismo 7 shall be used because the platform for it.

This can take the type of a web-based time trial. The quickest from the time trial shall be invited to compete on the finals, which shall be stay on the first-ever Olympic Esports Week from June 22-25 in Singapore.


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