Caterham denies future is at risk despite goods being seized

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The future of Caterham F1 Team looks to be coming under increasing threat after some of the team’s goods were seized and removed from its factory in England today.

Following the sale of the team by former owner Tony Fernandes back in July, speculation about Caterham’s future has been rife despite the new management claiming that the team was safe and already preparing for the 2015 season.

There have been a number of departures from Leafield over the past three months, prompting a group of released employees to launch legal action against their former employer.

The state of affairs seemed to be summed up when team principal Christijan Albers – the man drafted in to save Caterham – resigned after just two months in charge.

However, the situation appears to have become far more grave today as the team had many of its assets seized by High Court enforcement officers.

According to The Sheriffs Office, the following goods have been seized:

  • Caterham F1 test car (2013)
  • Caterham F1 car parts (due for Japan 2014)
  • Full size 6 DOF motion platform F1 simulator
  • Caterham F1 steering wheels
  • F1 wheels with tires
  • High quality drilling & machining equipment
  • Caterham & Lotus F1 memorabilia
  • Various pit lane equipment including jacks, pumps and starters
  • TVs, monitors and other goods and equipment

These goods will be sold at a public auction.

The team was quick to deny that its future was at risk, insisting that operations at base in Leafield and in Japan were still going as normal.

“There have been unfounded and unsubstantiated rumours concerning actions against 1MRT [1 Malaysia Racing Team], the entrant and owner of CaterhamF1,” a statement from the team read.

“An action was threatened yesterday against a supplier company to 1MRT. This company is not owned by 1MRT and it has no influence over the entry of CaterhamF1 or the entrant.

“Also contrary to uncontrolled rumours, all operations are currently in place at Leafield and the race team is doing its preparation in Japan.”

However, the team had been promising major upgrades for this weekend’s race at Suzuka, believing that they would give it a shot at beating nearest rivals Marussia and Sauber with the view to moving off the foot of the constructors’ championship table.

Now that said upgrades have been seized though, these hopes have been scuppered, leaving drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson facing a difficult weekend at Suzuka.

The more concerning question is how grave the problems at Caterham are. It has been common knowledge for some time that the team is facing an uphill struggle to survive, but new team principal Manfredi Ravetto seemed optimistic about the future when speaking in a recent interview.

“I think we have done a small miracle to bring it to where it is,” he told the F1 website. “I think we also did a small miracle by improving the performance and being ahead of Marussia in terms of speed and very close to Lotus and Sauber. We are set to deliver miracles.”

The sale of Caterham by Tony Fernandes has been very complex. The Malaysian businessmen denied for months that he was set to sell before summing up his venture in three words: “F1 hasn’t worked”. The team was then sold to a consortium made up of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors in a deal brokered by former Spyker and HRT boss Colin Kolles.

However, this did not include all of Caterham’s motorsport interests. The Caterham Racing GP2 team was set up as an offshoot to the F1 outfit, but it is no longer associated with it despite still working on the same site. Therefore, Caterham Racing continues to operate as normal.

The original young driver programme, of which American driver Alexander Rossi was a member, disappeared with Fernandes though, prompting Rossi to move to Marussia where he now works as a test driver.

Although the team has insisted that it is business as normal, all eyes will be on its activity across the course of this weekend’s race at Suzuka and where it goes from there.

Just as the warnings signs were there when HRT F1 Team folded at the end of the 2012 season after just three seasons racing, alarm bells are now ringing louder than ever for Caterham.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.