Onyx Grand Prix

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Post by Admin on Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:42 pm

Prior to entering Formula One, Paul Shakespeare had purchased the majority shares of the team in September 1988 and this provided Onyx with the much needed injection of cash to make the step up. Martin Dickson was hired as team manager and the team was further boosted by sponsorship from Marlboro and Moneytron, a company owned by flamboyant Belgian Jean-Pierre Van Rossem. Van Rossem would soon purchase all of Shakespeare's shares, becoming the majority owner in a deal that would cause the team a considerable amount of problems in the future. In the meantime, the team, now rebranded as Onyx Grand Prix, had struck a deal to use Ford V8's and Goodyear tyres. Respected engineer Alan Jenkins, who had previously worked for McLaren, was commissioned to design the team's first Formula One car, resulting in the tidy-looking Onyx ORE-1.[1] Earle went for a mixture of youth and experience on the driving front and hired the respected Stefan Johansson and the young Belgian rookie Bertrand Gachot, who had actually been responsible for the arrival of Van Rossem and his Moneytron sponsorship. So, with a solid business plan in place, a wealth of experience in junior formulae, a sound car and engine package and a solid driver duo, Onyx Grand Prix looked set to have a rather promising future in Formula One. At the car's debut in England, Autosport's Nigel Roebuck described the Moneytron sponsorship as "the most tasteless I have ever seen".[2]
1989 season[edit]
Despite all of the excitement and preparation, Onyx only just made it to their first Grand Prix. Their cars were only completed on the morning of their launch, before having to be hastily packed and sent off to Heathrow Airport the same day for transportation to Brazil, the scene of the seasons first race. Having had no testing done to fine-tune the cars, neither car would make it out of pre-qualifying in the first 3 rounds. Things got worse as a testing accident completely destroyed one chassis prior to the race at Imola and at the race itself, brake failure on Johansson's car resulted in another car-destroying crash. But positive signs were beginning to show as Gachot just missed out on pre-qualifying in Imola, Johansson would do the same at Monaco before finally, Johannson would make it out of pre-qualifying in Mexico, setting the 6th fastest time in Saturday free practice before qualifying 21st for the race, ahead of the illustrious Nelson Piquet and respected drivers Pierluigi Martini, René Arnoux and Eddie Cheever. The car however, and expectedly, would suffer a mechanical failure in its debut race, but the signs were promising. More good news arrived at Phoenix with the return of Greg Field who replaced Dickson as Team Manager, and Johansson once again making the grid, qualifying 19th before a front suspension failure ended his day. Johansson was once again on the grid in Canada, this time 18th. Gachot had yet to make his first Grand Prix start, but he was getting ever closer.
But it was during this upswing that things started to look ominous. Van Rossem's lavish lifestyle and extravagance came to the fore, having purchased a US$20 million Gulfstream Jet 4 prior to the Phoenix Grand Prix. Johannson was also disqualified in Canada after a botched pit-stop saw him tear the air gun rig apart. Amidst all the dark clouds however, a sunny day arrived at the 1989 French Grand Prix. Both cars were ideally suited to the Paul Ricard circuit and comfortably finished 1-2 in pre-qualifying. They both had an even more impressive qualifying proper, with Gachot ending up 11th on the grid and Johansson 13th. Gachot ran with Alesi, who finished 4th, before a battery problem put him down to 13th, while Johansson scored the team's first points with a fine 5th place. The two points were now set to get the team out of pre-qualifying for the remainder of the season, but it came to nothing at the next round in Britain as Johansson failed to qualify and Gachot qualifying 21st before having his race blighted by handling problems. The Minardis would finish 5th and 6th however, condemning Onyx to the ruthless world of pre-qualifying, although the fact that the two Brabhams and Dallara's Alex Caffi were no longer pre-qualifiers made this task easier for them. Johansson would qualify in Germany, Hungary and Belgium with Gachot missing out in Germany. But the trouble flared up once again with Van Rossem and his flamboyancy as he had been quoted in the press as saying he was attempting to attract top drivers to the team and was in the process of investing US$40 million into Porsche's F1 engine project, while in reality and behind closed doors, Van Rossem was beginning to bemoan the cost of running a Formula One team and was even rumoured to be reluctant to pay the team's bills. Van Rossem went one step further by saying on Belgian TV that he will quit F1 if the Porsche engine deal falls through. Many saw this as an admission that he was tired of the sport and a reason to get out. But Van Rossem's spectacularly destructive and erratic antics went on: he also made some controversial comments in a Belgian newspaper during the Belgian GP weekend, drawing the ire of two of F1's most powerful men: F1 commercial rights holder and F1 management CEO Bernie Ecclestone and then-FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre. He denied apparent allegations that he had referred to Balestre as a Nazi (Balestre apparently was part of the pro-Nazi Vichy French military during World War II) and Ecclestone as a Mafia boss. Ecclestone then banned Van Rossem from attending any further Grands Prix.[3]
At the Italian Grand Prix, Gachot qualified for what would be his final race for the team while Johansson failed to make the grid. Gachot raised the ire of his erratic boss and was sacked for voicing his displeasure at the team's lack of testing and an apparent lack of faith in his driving. Finn JJ Lehto was drafted in at the last minute as his replacement, but with little time to familiarise himself with the new car he failed to qualify for the next round in Portugal. But yet again it was Johansson that came to the fore and gave Onyx a reason to smile at the Portuguese Grand Prix. He decided not to change tyres during the race and after everybody else had made their pit-stops and following Mansell & Senna's collision, he was running an incredible 3rd before his tyres started to go. He was rapidly caught and passed by both Williamses but they soon retired and Johansson was left with a clear run home in 3rd, crossing the line with no fuel and just about driving on his rims. It was a great moment for the team but it would also turn out to be their last points finish. With Van Rossem reluctant to make funds available, development on the car was slow and Johansson would not qualify for the rest of the season, although Lehto would continue to improve, making the grid in Spain and Australia.
The team finished in a respectable 10th position overall in their début season, scoring 6 points, and rewarding them with not having to take part in pre-qualifying for the following season.
1990 season[edit]
After what should have been a solid foundation to build on[according to whom?] in 1989, things started coming apart heading into the 1990 Formula One Season. At the back end of 1989, Van Rossem's lack of interest began to show. Finances quickly dried up and Van Rossem's flamboyant and uncooperative personality had resulted in Earle and Chamberlain quitting the team, with Field quitting the team for a second time. Alan Jenkins took charge of the team with Peter Rheinardt taking over as Team Manager from Field. Having failed to secure a deal for either Honda or Porsche V10's for the 1991 Formula One Season, Van Rossem acted on his threats and left the team, taking his Moneytron sponsorship with him. Now seeking new ownership, Swiss car-collector and former racer Peter Monteverdi purchased 50% of the team with the father of driver Gregor Foitek, Karl Foitek purchasing 25% and Brune Frei purchasing the remaining 25%. The team was already in such dire financial straits that Foitek had to pay for Goodyear tyres used by the team in 1989 before the company would provide them with tyres for the 1990 season. The team then rehired Earle and Chamberlain but Alan Jenkins was soon fired after refusing to work with Earle, and to make matters worse,[according to whom?] Earle and Chamberlain left once again along with Team Manager Rheinhardt and the bulk of Onyx's experienced staff. This loss of key personnel was the team's first crisis of 1990.
For 1990 the team had retained JJ Lehto but in an obvious move they had opted to go with Gregor Foitek in the second car, as he was the son of part-owner Karl Foitek. But, Foitek was contracted to Brabham for two races so Johansson was kept for the opening two rounds. As little money had been put into developing a car for the 1990 season, the team arrived at the opening two rounds with last year's ORE-1. Neither driver qualified for the first two races with Johansson destroying two chassis in the process. On to Imola for round 3 and the team arrived with slightly updated ORE-1B chassis.[4] Foitek was finally available to the team and he replaced Johansson, but this resulted in the second crisis of 1990 as Stefan Johansson was upset by the team's disloyalty and sued them for breach of contract and, along with Alan Jenkins, he attempted to get a court injunction to block Monteverdi's planned relocation of the team. Imola did prove to have a happy ending[according to whom?] as both cars made the grid with Lehto coming home 12th. At Monaco, Foitek was running 6th late in the race when he collided with Éric Bernard's Larrousse, resulting in him being classified 7th, a result that would be Onyx's best finish of the season. Both cars made the grid in Canada and Mexico, but could only manage one finish between them with Foitek's 15th place in Mexico. In July Monteverdi had fulfilled his desire to move the team to Switzerland, but that improved nothing. A clear indication of how far behind the team had fallen came in France where both cars failed to make the grid, whereas at the same track last season, they had both qualified high up and netted a points finish. On to Britain and once again neither car made the grid. By the time of the German Grand Prix, Monteverdi had succeeded in changing the team's name to Monteverdi Onyx Formula One, but once again it meant nothing as although both cars scraped onto the grid, Foitek retired early and Lehto finished 6 laps behind and was unclassified.
There were also alarming rumours beginning to circulate regarding poor car preparation, including broken suspension parts being welded back together instead of being replaced and the cannibalising of Monteverdi's sports car collection to replace parts on the Formula One cars due to a lack of spare parts. One instance saw Lehto repeatedly complaining of poor handling, a problem that was finally solved when his driveshaft was discovered to have been installed the wrong way around. At around this time part-owner Karl Foitek withdrew his money and barred his son from driving a car that he now felt was a death-trap.[this quote needs a citation] With finances already a huge problem, Foitek's withdrawal was the final straw and the team would ultimately not see out the championship, wrapping up operations at the Hungarian Grand Prix in a sad ending for a team that had entered the sport with such promise and potential.


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Onyx Grand Prix Empty Re: Onyx Grand Prix

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:43 pm

Earle and Field enter F1, running de Villota

Arguably, a team with a podium finish to its name hardly deserves a place on this site. But the Onyx story is different. Entering F1 in 1989, Onyx was perhaps the most promising new entrant in F1 before Jordan two years later. Yet by the time Jordan entered the fray, Onyx had already undergone a name change and disappeared altogether. Its story is a sobering reminder that, for all the technology and business Grand Prix racing involves, at the end of the day it is a sport of people - just preferably people who know what they're doing. In their long pre-F1 history, and in the early days of the F1 team, Onyx was indeed a team of people who knew exactly what they were doing. Onyx Race Engineering was formed at the end of 1978 by Mike Earle and Greg Field. Earle had previously run the successful Church Farm Racing team in F3, F2 and British F5000, and together with Field and driver David Purley had established the Lec team to compete in Formula Atlantic, F2, European F5000 and F1 throughout the mid-to-late 1970s. But when Lec disbanded after Purley's massive accident at Silverstone in 1978, Onyx was born.

The original aim was to compete in F2 with their own chassis from their Littlehampton factory, but this proved unsuccessful in 1979, and in 1980 Onyx ran a semi-works March instead for Johnny Cecotto and Riccardo Paletti. Paletti in particular proved competitive in 1981, but in 1982 the Italian's sponsor took him to F1 with Osella. At that, Onyx decided to try its hand at F1 as well, running a privateer March in five events for Spanish journeyman Emilio de Villota, who failed to qualify once. Unfazed, Onyx planned to enter F1 with Paletti in its own car for 1983. But tragically Paletti passed away when he slammed into Didier Pironi's stalled Ferrari at the start of the Canadian GP, and the best laid plans had been thwarted. Field sold his shares in the team to Jo Chamberlain, but it seemed as though Onyx was heading towards closure. That was until March co-founder Robin Herd decided to outsource the running of the works March F2 team, and offered it to Earle and Onyx. With seemingly the best package in the field, and three competitive drivers in Beppe Gabbiani, Thierry Tassin and Christian Danner, Onyx looked primed for success in 1983.

A serious package: decent cash, designer, drivers

However, 1983 proved to be a benefit for the Ralts of Jonathan Palmer and Mike Thackwell, with Gabbiani relegated to 3rd. In 1984 Thackwell and Roberto Moreno in the Ralts again dominated, and the works Onyx Marches of Tassin, Emanuele Pirro and Pierre Petit were all beaten by Danner's privateer March. When F3000 took over from F2 as the last stepping stone to F1 in 1985, Onyx continued to run the works March team, and Pirro came 3rd that season, before finishing runner-up in 1986, despite having been the most competitive driver in the series. But the Onyx March partnership finally struck gold in 1987, when Earle ran Stefano Modena and Pierre-Henri Raphanel, the Italian securing three victories and the title. But just as quickly things went sour in 1988, as the new March 88B proved unwieldy and Volker Weidler could only manage 15th overall in the standings. Yet by now Earle had his sights set on entering F1 again for 1989, and began gathering a strong team around him. By September 1988 Paul Shakespeare had taken a majority shareholding in the team, providing much-needed initial financial clout.

Martin Dickson was brought in as team manager, while major sponsorship came from Marlboro and the Moneytron company of businessman Jean-Pierre van Rossem, the eccentric Belgian millionaire. Van Rossem very quickly bought out Shakespeare's shares and began to have a major say in the team, but just how much influence would not become clear until midway through the year. Meanwhile, a deal was done for Ford Cosworth V8 engines and Goodyear tyres, and a design commissioned from Alan Jenkins, formerly of McLaren and Penske. Jenkins penned the smart-looking ORE1 chassis, and was said to be so keen on detail he even wanted to design the toilet door handles for the team's new base at Westergate House! On the driving front, Earle chose a blend of youth and experience, bringing on board Stefan Johansson, the former Ferrari and McLaren ace who was trying to recover from a disastrous 1988 with Ligier, and Belgian rookie Bertrand Gachot, who found the Moneytron deal in the first place. Despite being the only debutant team in the massive 39-car 1989 field, on paper Onyx looked to have a capable combination.

Onyx opens their account with some DNPQs

However, the ORE1s were late in being prepared. They were finished at 5am on the morning that the car was to be launched, and after the brief presentation they were packed off to Heathrow for the flight to Brazil for the season opener. Indeed, the final touches were still being put on the car in the Rio paddock. Embroiled in the lottery of pre-qualifying with limited testing to get the car up to speed, it was no surprise that neither Johansson or Gachot managed to pre-qualify, not only in Brazil but also in San Marino and Monaco. Matters weren't helped by a major accident at Misano in the week leading up to Imola which destroyed one chassis, and a rear brake failure then caused Johansson to crash again at Imola itself. But there were positive signs already. Gachot only missed out on pre-qualifying at Imola by one place, and Johansson likewise at Monaco. But in Mexico, whilst Gachot again missed out by just one spot, Johansson survived the Friday morning, and was then actually 6th fastest in Saturday free practice. He then made the grid in 21st, ahead of Pierluigi Martini, Eddie Cheever, Rene Arnoux and even Nelson Piquet!

However, in its first race, the ORE1 predictably retired with a mechanical problem, suffering a clutch failure. Nevertheless, the improvement continued at Phoenix, where Field returned to the team he left in 1982, in place of Dickson as team manager. Johansson started from 19th but retired with a front suspension failure, and then in Canada he made the grid again, this time in 18th. Gachot was still yet to make it past the pre-qualifying maelstrom, but it seemed only a matter of time before he would make his first Grand Prix start. But it was around this time that, in a foreboding sign of the future, things at Onyx began to take a turn towards the bizarre. At Phoenix, the excess-loving, publicity-seeking van Rossem turned up with six European hostesses to accompany him, having the previous week also spent US$20 million on a Gulfstream 4 business jet. On the track in Canada, mechanics found a piece of rear upright thrown up from a crash lodged in Johansson's cockpit. And in the race itself in Montreal, during his pit stop Johansson managed to pull out half the air gun rig, and ended up being disqualified.

Superb effort at Paul Ricard (but 5th one week, DNPQ the next)

But for the time being, the early disappointments were put on hold in France, one of the undoubted highlights of Onyx's 1989. The two ORE1s were beautifully tuned to the Paul Ricard layout, and came 1-2 in pre-qualifying. They then made it onto the grid with ease, Gachot an unbelievable 11th and Johansson 13th. Gachot's effort was even more impressive since he had had to use his spare car in practice after wheel bearing problems plagued his race car. Then on the Sunday, Gachot ran in the points close to Jean Alesi (who eventually came 4th), before a battery problem dropped him to 13th. It was Johansson, though, who provided delight for Earle and his team, hanging on for a fabulous 5th place, scoring two vital points which looked set to take Onyx out of pre-qualifying after the British GP. But joy turned to despair a week later at Silverstone. Johansson failed to pre-qualify by one place, despite setting a lap time that would have been good enough for 20th on the grid. Gachot qualified 21st, but handling problems limited him to 12th place. Meanwhile, the Minardis finished 5th and 6th, scoring three points, eclipsing Onyx and sending the blue machines back to pre-qualifying.

Nevertheless, they could now approach the Friday morning sessions with a little more confidence. Johansson started 24th in Germany but encountered more wheel bearing problems, but Gachot did not qualify, although the Belgian had been fastest in pre-qualifying with a time that would have earned him 13th on the grid. Both started in Hungary, although there the ORE1s were afflicted by gearbox problems, and Johansson was the man being lapped when Nigel Mansell opportunistically blasted past Ayrton Senna to take victory for Ferrari having only started 12th on the grid. Belgium again saw two Onyxes at the start-line, Johansson gridding up a marvellous 15th, but while the Swede came home 8th, Gachot suffered more wheel bearing trouble. And simultaneously, more trouble was brewing in the camp, with that man van Rossem at the centre of it. In public, he was waxing lyrically about how he was trying to persuade top drivers to the team, and spending a reputed US$40 million on developing the Porsche F1 engine. But in private, he was complaining that F1 was costing him too much, and was allegedly reluctant to pay the team's bills.

Adieu Gachot! Bonjour Podium!

Indeed, van Rossem's eagerness to secure a top engine deal for the team reeked of either desperation or a hidden agenda. He told Belgian TV that he wanted to pull out if Onyx didn't get the Porsche engine deal for 1991, which seemed like a rather good excuse for him to make his exit. At the same time, van Rossem wasn't exactly showing the management skills that would attract a top engine supplier to work with the team. After Monza, where Gachot qualified but Johansson didn't, the rookie found himself out of the team altogether. Gachot had complained in private about his lack of testing opportunities and the team's apparent lack of confidence in him. But these resentments somehow found themselves aired on a press release, which had been issued without Gachot's permission. Both Onyx and van Rossem knew Bertrand had not given permission, but nonetheless the driver was given a one-race suspension by his team, which turned out to be a very permanent axing. One wonders if this was an example of the eccentric van Rossem wanting to throw his weight around, by getting rid of people he didn't get along with.

At any rate, the man brought in to replace Gachot was Finnish rising star JJ Lehto, who was under the tutelage of Keke Rosberg. He had shown good speed testing for Ferrari, and was called up to the Onyx team at the last minute. He only made his flight for Estoril because the planes at Heathrow had been unexpectedly delayed. With no experience of the car, the team sent him out on race tyres in pre-qualifying, but despite rear suspension trouble and not having the advantage of super-sticky qualifiers, he only missed out by one place. In testing a week later, he managed a time that would have qualified him 16th. But at Estoril, Johansson starred. Qualifying 12th, he decided to do the whole race on a single set of tyres. After others came in, and after Mansell and Senna collided, he found himself in 3rd! But his tyres were wearing fast, and both Williams passed him, only to expire almost simultaneously shortly after. That left Johansson with a clear run to the flag, and he made it to the line still on the lead lap, with no fuel left and with the tyres almost worn to the rim. Still, a podium finish in the team's debut season was a glorious result. Come 1990, pre-qualifying, for Onyx, would now surely be a thing of the past.

Van Rossem disembarks, Monteverdi comes aboard

In what had been an up-and-down season though, Johansson then failed to pre-qualify for the last three races of the year. This may have also had something to do with the fact that development on the ORE1 was slowing down, and van Rossem's funds were filtering through slower than before. Meanwhile, Lehto grasped the opportunity to impress, qualifying 17th in Spain and Australia. At Jerez, racing under Rosberg's instructions to take it easy, he was nonetheless involved in a battle for 12th when transmission problems forced him out. But then in the rain in Adelaide he was in the thick of the action again. He caused the first chaotic start to be red-flagged after stranding himself on a kerb, but in the re-start he and the ORE1 were simply stunning, tailing Satoru Nakajima (who would eventually finish a brilliant 4th), and running in the points when his engine cut. And so 1989 ended, with Onyx equal 10th in the constructors' table with Johansson equal 11th. With a car that had become increasingly competitive as the season wore on, all in all it had been an impressive debut season, a tribute to Jenkins' design and Earle's organisational skills.

But performance was nothing without money to keep funding it, and it was on the financial and management fronts that things took a turn for the worse. Van Rossem's uncooperativeness took their toll on Earle and Chamberlain, who both quit. Field had already left (again!). Jenkins was left in charge of the day-to-day running of the team, with Peter Rheinhardt appointed as team manager. But, according to Tom Prankerd, after van Rossem failed to secure a deal for either the Honda V10s or the Porsche V10 motor for 1991, he promptly lived up to his threats and pulled out of the team himself, publicly claiming his departure was due to the fact that incumbent FIA President Jean-Marie Balestre had Nazi connections! Onyx was now up for sale, and another man with perhaps too much money to throw around answered the call. He was Swiss classic car collector, former racer and self-styled car creator Peter Monteverdi, and he bought a 50% stake in the team. Fellow Swiss businessman Karl Foitek, father of Gregor Foitek, and Ferrari dealer Bruno Frei purchased 25% each. Such were the team's debts that Foitek had to write a cheque paying for Onyx's tyres from 1989 before Goodyear were willing to supply them with tyres for 1990!

Musical chairs as the team confronts a museum move

As the beginning of the 1990 season drew near, under Monteverdi's inexperienced stewardship Onyx was in upheaval. Earle and Chamberlain were invited back to join Rheinhardt in the team management, but an upset Jenkins refused to work with Earle any more. Before the designer could quit, he was unceremoniously sacked. Then Rheinhardt, Earle and Chamberlain all left themselves, along with many of the team's staff. Earle and Chamberlain then attempted in vain to buy out the Brabham team, and Earle instead found a job maintaining the private car collection of the Sultan of Brunei! On the driving front, Lehto was retained, but it seemed logical that Gregor Foitek would now leave EuroBrun to drive for the team part-owned by his father. But he had a two race contract with Brabham, so temporarily Johansson was kept. Despite all the upheaval, the team showed up to the first two races with the ORE1, now devoid of its Moneytron labels. But, to demonstrate the effect all the strife had had on off-season development, neither driver managed to qualify for the first two races, and Johansson wrote off two chassis.

For San Marino, a mildly revised ORE1B chassis was introduced, the pink stripes on the 1989 car replaced by apple green ones, and an ad for Monteverdi's motor museum where the 'Moneytron' used to be. Foitek was finally brought in to replace Johansson, but the Swede, unhappy at Onyx's disloyalty, sued for breach of contract. He had a card up his sleeve though, because, as Tom Prankerd tells us, Monteverdi in his naivety was reportedly interested in relocating the team to Switzerland, to turn it into a working exhibit into his museum! This despite the fact that none of his mechanics were too keen on the idea. Johansson used this to his advantage. Knowing that he was unlikely to get his seat back, he wanted to make Onyx pay instead. So he sought an injunction from a court, which ordered that the money at stake be placed in a bond, such that if Monteverdi did move the team to Switzerland, the money would go to the Swede. Jenkins like the sound of that, and filed a similar application for the money he felt he was being owed. Not surprisingly, when both Johansson and Jenkins tried to confront their team in the paddock at Imola, Monteverdi had them promptly thrown out!

Name change to Monteverdi whilst things sour on track

On the track at Imola, things were only marginally brighter. For the first time in 1990, both Onyxes made the grid. Foitek retired and Lehto came home 12th, even thought Foitek surprisingly had the upper hand throughout the weekend. Indeed, it was arguable that the Swiss driver had the better of the Finn as 1990 wore on, possibly as a result of the now Swiss-oriented team favouring the part-owner's son, and possibly as Lehto became disenchanted by how such a promising team had disintegrated into a stagnant heap within a matter of months. Then in Monaco, Foitek was lying in a points-paying position in 6th towards the end of the race, fending off Eric Bernard in the Larrousse, when a collision with the Frenchman saw the Onyx stranded. Foitek ended up being classified 7th, missing out on that one point for 6th that would have been such a fillip for the team. Both cars then started but retired in Canada, but in Mexico Foitek finished 15th despite brake problems, while Lehto was the last retirement of the race after an engine failure, albeit some 43 laps from the end, in a race of remarkable reliability.

But in truth, both ORE1Bs were standing still compared to the rest of the field. Monteverdi simply had no money for development, and not much of a clue about how to run a Formula One team. He was more intent on fidgety things such as the team's move to Switzerland, which eventually happened in July, and changing the team's name from Onyx to Monteverdi. As a sign of how lamentable the situation was, neither car qualified in France, where Onyx had starred so brilliantly twelve months before, and there was no Onyx on the grid at Silverstone either. By the German GP, Monteverdi had successfully changed the team to his name, and though both cars scraped onto the grid, Foitek spun out and Lehto finished unclassified, 6 laps down. Neither car started in Hungary, but by now the death knells were ringing for the team. As Paul Gibson tells us, the team now owed a debt to Goodyear of some 400,000 pounds. The preparation of the cars was becoming questionable, with spare parts in such short supply that, as scandalous rumour had it, Monteverdi's classic car collection was being scavenged for bits and pieces!

Foitek pulls out, and 91 car never sees a Grand Prix

Broken wishbones were welded back together instead of being replaced, and when Lehto complained of a recurrent handling problem, it was traced to a differential that had been installed the wrong way around several races earlier. Little wonder that respected journalist Nigel Roebuck began calling the team 'Team Cuckoo Clock'. At this point, Karl Foitek withdrew his money from the farce, refusing to let his son drive what had become a death-trap. With the financial situation already desperate before that, this was the final straw, and after Hungary the team was no more. Monteverdi actually had plans to continue into 1991, and the team had even built a new car, a compact red and white machine that Lehto tested briefly, but needless to say the car simply ended up on display in the museum. Sadly, Monteverdi passed away a few years ago. Nonetheless, the Onyx story was a cautionary tale of how F1 efforts should be left to those, like Earle and Jenkins, who understand the sport and know how to run a team. It is, and always has been, best left out of the hands of rich, if well-intentioned, gentlemen who merely treat it as their latest toy.


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