Friday, March 6, 2009

USF1 ready to roll

(by Tom Jensen speedtv.com 2-24-09)

It’s a plan as audacious as it is inspired: Build an all-new Formula 1 team from scratch, base it in Charlotte, N.C., hire two American drivers and go racing all over the globe against Ferrari, McLaren and the titans of F-1 in 2010.

But that’s exactly what engineer Ken Anderson and longtime SPEED reporter and former Williams team manager Peter Windsor plan to do with their new USF1 team. The duo was at SPEED headquarters in Charlotte on Tuesday to discuss their plans for the new team and in some cases not discuss the myriad specifics, which are still being kept tightly under wraps.

“How do you do a Formula 1 team? That’s an interesting question,” said Windsor. “There is no book about it. There’s lots of books on how to drive a race car, perhaps, but no book on how to do a Formula 1 team.” So in a very real sense, Windsor and Anderson intend to write an all-new book, or at least a historic new chapter in F-1’s rich history.

For the last four years, Windsor and Anderson have been quietly putting together their plans for USF1, which will be radically different than the traditional F-1 model. “We always wanted to do our own team, our way,” said Windsor. “It sounds very arrogant, perhaps, but we’ve got some history, we’ve got some things we want to bring into the sport that we think we can do well.”

Here are the highpoints:

• USF1 will be based in Charlotte, likely on the north side of town, very near SPEED’s headquarters. The facility will employ more than 100 people and will be modeled after modern NASCAR team shops, which allow fans to visit and watch cars being constructed. Windsor specifically mentioned Michael Waltrip Racing’s Raceworld USA facility in nearby Cornelius, N.C., as a shop he admired. The new USF1 headquarters also will have its own on-site television studio.

And it will be a facility that relies heavily on outside vendors in the motorsports-rich Metro Charlotte area and less on enormous budgets and lavish trappings. “For those of them out there who say, ‘Where’s all the money? Where’s the huge facility? Where’s the money falling out of the sky?’ That isn’t ever going to happen with USF1,” said Windsor. “We’ve always had a very different approach, and that approach will become evident as time goes on and this year unfolds.”

• The team intends to sign two American drivers. A variety of names were mentioned by Windsor and Anderson, including Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and Scott Speed.

• USF1 will buy engines from another team, to be identified later. USF1 is essentially putting out an RFP for engines, looking for an appropriate supplier among the existing competitors.

• The team has four investors who own a minority share in the operation. Neither the amount they own, nor the identities of the investors were disclosed. Sponsors were not identified, either.

• USF1 will have a European satellite facility where it houses its transporters and other equipment, but the true base of operations will be in Charlotte.

• The team plans to race full-time in Formula 1 in 2010, and hopes to be in a position to finish in the points with some regularity by the following season. “After that, the sky’s the limit,” said Windsor.

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