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Manor: Sauber’s Brazilian GP points ended F1 survival hopes

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Stephen Fitzpatrick says that Sauber’s points finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix ended Manor’s hopes of being on the Formula 1 grid in 2017.

Manor entered administration this morning amid ongoing financial difficulties, confirming that FRP Advisory set to oversee proceedings with 212 jobs at risk.

Team owner Fitzpatrick bought Manor back in 2015 when the former grand prix project also entered administration, keeping the operation on the grid.

In an article on Manor’s website, Fitzpatrick explained the decision to enter administration, believing it to be the safest option to give the team a chance at some kind of future.

“Today’s decision to put the team into administration represents a disappointing end to a two-year journey for Manor,” Fitzpatrick said.

“Over much of the last year we have been in discussions with several investor groups, and had finally agreed terms of a sale to an Asian investment consortium in December. This would have provided the team with a strong platform for continued growth and development.

“Unfortunately time ran out before they could complete the transaction. Not wishing to repeat events of the past, we resolved in 2015 not to start any season that we did not know for certain we could complete, so we have taken the difficult decision to put the team’s operating company into administration.”

Manor enjoyed what was arguably its strongest season to date in F1 last year, running 10th in the constructors’ championship for much of the year before Felipe Nasr’s charge to ninth place in Brazil lifted Sauber into the top 10.

The result cost Manor millions of dollars in prize money, dealing a blow that ended Manor’s hopes of survival, according to Fitzpatrick.

“When I took over the team in 2015, the challenge was clear; it was imperative that the team finish in 10th place or better in 2016,” Fitzpatrick said.

“For much of the season we were on track. But the dramatic race in Brazil ended our hopes of this result and ultimately brought into doubt the team’s ability to race in 2017.

“I look back on 2016 with pride in what Manor accomplished in what was the most successful year in the team’s history.

“I would like to thank the team for their constant hard work, determination and passion. We made a huge amount of progress on and off track but ultimately it was not enough.”

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.