Caterham administrators in talks with possible new buyers

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The administrators currently in charge at Caterham F1 Team have confirmed in a new statement that they are in talks with a number of possible buyers for the financially-stricken outfit.

Following a dispute between former owner Tony Fernandes and possible buyers Engavest, the team entered administration last week and was taken over by administrator Finbarr O’Connell of Smith and Williamson.

Caterham will not be racing in the United States this weekend, nor will it take part in the Brazilian Grand Prix in one week’s time. Marussia will also miss both races after hitting its own financial strife following the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

In a statement issued on Friday, the administrators confirmed that it was still hoping to get the investment in place for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in three weeks’ time. Failing that, it will work to get the team on the grid for 2015.

“We remain in conversation with a number of credible, interested parties regarding the sale of the historic Caterham F1 racing team,” the statement reads.

“Our current strategy is to seek a buyer that will allow the team to compete in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi on 23 November 2014 and we are doing all we can to make that happen. However, if a deal cannot be finalised in time, then the strategy is to secure a buyer to allow the team to compete in the 2015 F1 championship.

“We are working with our specialist Corporate Finance team to manage the sale process and we have received several expressions of interest from parties with the financial strength to fund a F1 race team. These conversations are ongoing. We believe this approach will maximise the assets of the broader Caterham F1 team and so enable the best outcome for creditors and other stakeholders, including employees of 1MRT.”

The statement also revealed that the employees at Caterham F1 Team actually work for 1 Malaysia Racing Team, Tony Fernandes’ company, and not the firm that has entered administration, Caterham Sports Limited.

“Staff at Caterham’s Leafield site in Oxfordshire are employees of 1MRT, which is a separate entity to CSL,” it reads. “Staff were advised in writing that from 8 October 2014, their employment had been transferred from CSL to 1MRT. This took place before the current administrators of CSL were appointed.

“As administrators to CSL, we are doing our best to resolve matters as smoothly as possible and for the benefit of creditors and other stakeholders. This remains a highly complex situation.

“We understand that in recent weeks there has been a lack of communication between 1MRT and staff at the Leafield site. The administrators of CSL are therefore mindful of the uncertainty facing 1MRT’s employees and their families and are doing their best to address this.”

For the time being, the uncertainty at Caterham is set to continue. O’Connell is set to travel to Austin this weekend for the United States Grand Prix to provide updates on the search for a buyer, but unless one is found soon, Caterham’s hopes of survival may be all but over.

Caterham drivers Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi have come to the race in Austin despite not racing, with Ericsson conducting work for Swedish television as his F1 hopes are put on hold.

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Even with half the purse and no fans, Indy 500 still has major team value

Indy 500 purse fans
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Even with reportedly half the purse and no fans in attendance, NTT IndyCar Series driver-owner Ed Carpenter believes it remains “absolutely critical” to hold the 104th Indy 500.

“Far and away it’s what makes and breaks our season as teams,” the Ed Carpenter Racing namesake told reporters during a Zoom media availability last week. “It’s the most important event to our partners. It 100 percent sucks not having fans there and not even being able to have the experience with our partners in full being there. But it’s necessary.

“We’ve got to look at all the hard decisions now of what we have to do to be in a position to have fans in 2021. It’s critical for the health of the teams that we have this race to make sure we have teams back here next year. That sounds a little dramatic, but that’s the reality.

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“We live in not only a very volatile world right now, but our industry and motorsport in general, it’s not an easy business to operate. When you lose your marquee event, it’s a lot different than looking at losing Portland on the schedule or Barber. They’re in totally different atmospheres as far as the importance to us and our partners.”

Robin Miller reported on RACER.com that IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske told team owners last week the purse for the postponed Indianapolis 500 was slashed from $15 to $7.5 million. Miller reported holding the Aug. 23 race (1 p.m. ET, NBC) would be a $20 million hit to the bottom line.

Carpenter still is supportive of Penske’s “outstanding job” of leading the series through the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Even with a 50 percent purse reduction, the Indy 500 remains the linchpin of teams’ economic viability.

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The schedule has taken many hits with the cancellation of races at Barber Motorsports Park, Circuit of the Americas, Detroit, Portland International Raceway, Laguna Seca and Toronto, and another race weekend doubleheader at Mid-Ohio has been indefinitely postponed.

That leaves the 2020 slate at 12 confirmed races of an original 17, which has raised questions about how many races teams need to fulfill sponsor obligations.

“It’s a moving target,” said Carpenter, who announced the U.S. Space Force as a new sponsor for the Indy 500. “I think we’ve been pretty blessed as a team with the level of commitment of our partners and their understanding of COVID-19 and the impact on our schedule, our contracts.

“All of it is out of our control, out of the series’ control, the promoter’s control. At the end of the day is there a firm number (of races) I can give? No. But definitely every one that we lose, it does make it harder to continue having those conversations.

I think everyone’s as confident as you can be right now with what we have in front of us with what’s remaining on the schedule. Things are so fluid, it changes day-to-day, let alone week-to-week. We just have to take it as it comes. Right now the focus is on the 500 and maximizing this month to the best we possibly can given the situation.”

That’ll be hard this month for Carpenter, who grew up in Indianapolis and is the stepson of Tony George, whose family owned Indianapolis Motor Speedway for decades.

Having spent a lifetime around the Brickyard, Carpenter will feel the ache of missing fans as he races in his 17th Indy 500.

Ed Carpenter, shown racing his No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet at Iowa Speedway last month, led a race-high 65 laps and finished second in the 2018 Indy 500 (Chris Jones/IndyCar).

“Over that time you develop relationships that are centered around standing outside of your garage in Gasoline Alley,” he said. “It stinks, it sucks that we don’t get to share that passion we all have that is the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately it’s the reality we’re in right now.

I think this is the best that we can do unfortunately. Without a doubt it’s going to be a different environment. You’re going to be missing the sounds and a lot of the sights and colors. For sure I’ve thought about it. It’s going to be a different morning, different lead-in to the race. After 16 of them, you have a cadence and anticipation for the buildup. That’s all going to be different this year.

“I’m confident it’s not going to affect the type of show we put on or the excitement and how aggressive we are fighting for an Indy 500 win. It’s still going to mean the same thing. We’re just not going to have our fans to celebrate with after the fact. But it’s going to be historic.”