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Catching Up

FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE
21/03/2010

There are a number of points to catch up on. One is that I was right in saying that Toyota would have known that it was heading for a crisis with quality control. It now turns out that a group of workers submitted a memo to the President of the company four years ago.

This was not me being clever, it comes down to computerised stock control. If you buy anything in a supermarket, a bar code is swiped and this means that you get an accurate and itemised bill and every item is registered on a central computer as being one less at the store.

If this happens with a bunch of carrots, and it does, it's going to happen with things like brake systems. McLaren is building this into servicing dealers handling the MP4-12C so there will always be a spare part for your car.

I suggest that it may have been foreknowledge of a crisis that prompted Toyota's withdrawal from F1.

As Chris Sylt has discovered, Team Steve may be nothing except smoke and mirrors. Formula One has known a fair few chancers and wannabees, and Steve may be there with LIFE and Andrea Moda, except a couple of things bother me.

One is that former McLaren Chief Designer Mike Coughlan was employed by Steve. I assume that he was paid. Perhaps not the GBP 350,000, plus benefits, he received in Woking, but he would have been on a decent wage.

Pat Symonds is currently unemployed. Save for articles for the magazine, RaceTech. Despite a French court overturning the WMSC's five year ban on him, and the lifetime ban on Flavio Briatore, both Pat and Flav have been effectively blacklisted by Formula One.

Coughlan has not been barred from pursuing his trade. Even though job offers must have been thin on the ground, I cannot see him agreeing to work for an outfit unless minimum standards were met. It is one thing to be unemployed, another to lose all dignity.

I cannot see Toyota Motorsport, parting with so much information and hardware to a start-up outfit, and allowing the use of its facilities in Cologne, unless the odd clam shell was passed their way.

The thing is that if you secure a place on the grid, you are then in a position to attract sponsors. Under Jackie Oliver, Arrows existed for years without winning a race, but Oliver became wealthy through making deals.

It is worth making an initial personal investment in order to have space on a car to sell. This may have been the thinking behind Team Steve, US F1 and Campos, as was. Max Mosley knows this better than anyone because it was part of his business plan when setting up March Engineering in 1969 - Max invented the model.

Following my piece on USF1, my mail box has been full of letters from American enthusiasts, many writing to Pitpass for the first time. There are a lot of American followers of F1, they just tend to be spread about. There is no focus for them as there is with, say, a team, a top driver or a race.

It was the American market that made Ferrari and Porsche and where most MGs, Triumphs, Austin-Healeys, Jaguars and Datsun's Z-cars were sold. Their sales were tiny compared to Chevrolet and Ford, but were massive compared to any other market. America has maintained a strong interest in sports car racing, the Sebring 12-Hour race is the second oldest sports car race in the world, and the Daytona 24-Hours has been held every year since 1966.

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