Archive for October, 2014

All about Finbarr O’Connell, the newest new Caterham boss.

A look on Smith and Williamson’s website at the profile of Finbarr O’Connell, the insolvency practitioner running Caterham, contains some revealing nuggets of information.  Apparently he has always seen his role as that of a “problem solver” for his clients, and his areas of expertise include ‘fraud and asset tracing’, an ability to trace assets seems like a valuable commodity in this case.

He’s not just running Caterham either, according to the website he is operating an agricultural business and a foreign exchange firm.

Busy man.


Caterham – F1’s Orphan

Sylvester Stallone’s Champ Car movie Driven is often held up as the pinnacle of ludicrous soap opera when it comes to open wheel racing, closely followed in the real world by the setting up of Indy Racing League, the Donington imaginary British Grand Prix farce and the Lola MasterCard team.

But now we have a new ridiculous story to follow, which threatens to make a car launching into a trackside lake seem almost plausible by comparison.

Caterham, the gift that keeps on giving.

Many teams have folded over the years – but few have actually met their demise because all possible owners disavowed actually owning the team. The result has been an orphaned entity, with its operational division headed up by an unknown individual, and its license holding entity owned by god only knows who.

For an entity purportedly owned by (depending on who you believe) a Malaysian, or a Swiss Arab consortium, there do appear to be a lot of Romanians circling around in various roles and functions.

No doubt the reason for this will all become clear one day, but if farcical corporate behaviour floats your boat, this sorry story really does have everything.

Colin Kolles’ father, who records at Companies House show resigned as a director of Caterham Sports Ltd 2 days after the Singapore Grand Prix, got out just in time.

Why Joe Saward is wrong on Bianchi aftermath

Joe Saward has just publised an article which refers to people ‘banging on’ about tractors on race tracks. The article reeks of complacency.

Since someone has been nearly killed by hitting a tractor I’m not sure why his tone is so dismissive.

At the risk of ‘banging on’ it is worth reflecting on the fact that Charlie Whiting himself has said the FIA is investigating whether the impact protection on tractors (which is currently non existent) can be introduced.

Objects in harms way on a race track CAN be protected, that’s why tyre barriers, tecpro and SAFER exist.

As Charlie himself said, lorries in Europe have bars to stop cars going underneath, and emergency motorway response vehicles have large deformable impact cushions. Both are possibilities for a tractor on an FIA Category 1 circuit.

It’s even feasible to design and mandate a bespoke removal vehicle specifically for this purpose, designed to absorb impact if struck by a race car.

So with apologies to Mr Saward, whose opinion I usually respect, I’ll reserve the right to go on ‘Banging on’ about safety in motorsport, since people ‘banging on’ and demanding change has led to every safety improvement he now seem to take for granted.

Jules Bianchi’s accident and the risk of complacency

We must hope for good news from those treating Jules Bianchi after his terrible accident.

Those who know appear to say procedures were followed in all respects, that tractors remain a suitable way to remove cars, and that full course safety cars would spoil F1.

And yet we have a driver fighting for his life.

I worry that even the most intelligent and caring F1 commentators may be at risk of complacency in defending the sport they love. Some say the fans should stay out of things, that as armchair observers we cant possibly understand.

But here is the inconvenient truth, no racing series is immune to learning from its mistakes, learning from other series, or learning from scrutiny in the court of public opinion.

SAFER barriers, HANS devices, safety cells, tecpro barriers, dropping Spa and Hockenheim long courses, putting fire extinguishers on board, marshals being told to stay behind fences, extracting drivers in their seats, armco barriers subject to inspection, tarmac runoffs, on board signalling, le mans slow zones – all were born, decided upon, adopted or invented after accidents, many with a fair amount of public opinion behind them.

You can’t just say ‘its just one of those things’ if fans don’t buy it. Drivers burning to death in litres of fuel or being catapulted from their vehicles into trees used to be ‘one of those things’ but the weight of opinion led to positive change.

‘It’s always been this way’ is a blinkered view and does a disservice to those trying to constructively suggest improvements. If half as much effort had been spent designing a purpose built F1 recovery truck with built in impact protection as went into designing blown diffusers or the HANS device we may have had a different outcome. We may avoid another tragedy in the future, if that constructive innovation now happens.