EXCLUSIVE: F1 heading for eastern revolution as new team emerges from Romania

Forza Rossa aiming to race in 2015, as super-rich investors from Eastern Europe increase interest

Formula One could be about to see an era of mass investment from eastern Europe’s growing number of billionaires, with the news that a team from Romania will be joining the sport over the next two years.

The arrival of Forza Rossa, revealed in documents filed at London’s High Court, confirms what many had long suspected: that it was only a matter of time before the sport attracted the attention of eastern Europe’s super-rich.

The new team is the third stage of the sport’s drive into that part of the world, following the inaugural Russian Grand Prix earlier this month and the recent decision to host a race from 2016 in the oil-rich country of Azerbaijan.

It will also help to fill Formula One’s ranks, which have been under increasing threat over the past week after two of its worst performers, Caterham and Marussia, have collapsed into administration and will miss this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Texas.

Romania has racing heritage as a round of the GT sportscar championship was held on the streets of its capital Bucharest in 2007 and 2008. The country does not have a Formula One race but Forza Rossa could be the springboard for one as it was in India, which hosted its first grand prix in 2011, three years after the debut of the Force India team.

Government investment is crucial to hosting a grand prix and Forza Rossa comes well-equipped as the project is led by Ion Bazac, a former Romanian health minister. The team have long been rumoured to be interested in joining the sport but until now there has been no confirmation it has got the green light.

This comes in sworn testimony from Constantin Cojocar, a former professional footballer for Steaua Bucharest, who last month bought Caterham Sports, which designs and builds cars for Caterham. Last week Caterham Sports and the team’s operating company, 1Malaysia Racing Team (1MRT), were put into the hands of administrators and Cojocar’s witness statement, which was filed during the court proceedings, lifts the lid on Forza Rossa’s plans.

 

“Early in 2014, a Romanian team called FRR Formula 1 Team [Forza Rossa] formed the intention of entering Formula 1. The project is led by a Mr Ion Bazac, a former Romanian health minister. In June 2014, Forza Rossa received a letter of intent from the FIA [the governing body for the sport], allowing it to enter Formula 1 in the next two years. Forza Rossa hopes to race in the 2015 season, but time to prepare is running short.”

In his statement Cojocar says that he bought Caterham Sports with the intention of it designing and building cars for Caterham and Forza Rossa.

Cojocar says his Romanian investors were due to provide £2m per week, which was to be used to pay the creditors of Caterham Sports, and save it from collapsing.

“Unfortunately, the money promised to me by my backers has not arrived,” he said, adding: “I understand that Forza Rossa is looking at other possible arrangements for 2015 and I have found it very difficult to contact my backers in Romania.”

The lack of funds led to bills not being paid by Caterham Sports and earlier this month bailiffs seized equipment, including a simulator and steering wheels, from its factory after it failed to abide by a court ruling to settle £750,000 of unpaid bills.

Cojocar added that “the difficulties caused by not receiving the funds promised to me have led me to the conclusion that I have no choice but to request that the company is put into administration”.

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