Modena Team SpA

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Modena Team SpA

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:32 pm

Modena Team SpA was a Formula One team from Italy that contested a single season in 1991. The team had a rather confused history, and is often referred to as the "Lambo" or Lamborghini team because of its connections to the Italian automotive manufacturer. It competed in 16 World Championship Grands Prix (6 starts) but scored no Championship points. Its best result was seventh in the 1991 United States Grand Prix.



The team first emerged as GLAS in early 1990. It was to be financed by wealthy Mexican businessman Fernando Gonzalez Luna, who was reported to be investing around $20 million in the team, and it was to be run by former Italian journalist Leopoldo Canettoli. The young team had approached Italian sportscar manufacturer Lamborghini, to not only supply them with their latest V12 Formula One engines, but to also design and build the chassis. Lamborghini had established a Formula One specific division in 1988, — Lamborghini Engineering — to oversee their burgeoning Formula One programme and they entered the sport in 1989 as an engine supplier. 1991 would be the firm's first attempt at designing and building a Formula One car. Former Alfa Romeo and Spirit driver Mauro Baldi was proposed as a part-backer and driver for the team.

Lamborghini Engineering had tasked Mauro Forghieri, with the assistance of Mario Tolentino, to design and build a Formula One car. By the summer of 1990 they had completed the process and had a rolling chassis ready for testing, only for Luna to disappear, taking all his money with him. This left a huge hole in the team's finances and effectively put its future in doubt. However, Lamborghini were determined to keep the project going as they already had the engines and now they had a Formula One car. So, the Italian firm injected a sum of money into the team to keep it running, they relocated it to Modena in Italy, which resulted in a subsequent name change taken from the team's new home, installed Italian industrialist and former Fila boss Carlo Patrucco as Team Principal, and entered the 1991 Formula One season. Lamborghini were reluctant to have the team viewed as a "works" team though, as this might reflect badly on the marque, so it was entered as Modena Team SpA. Most media sources and fans ignored this, referring to the team as Lamborghini, or more colloquially as, "Lambo". However, it was noted that after an initial lump sum from Lamborghini, Modena Team were an entirely independent business entity and received no further investment or financial assistance from Lamborghini.

The change of name would cause confusion throughout the season. It was essentially a Lamborghini Engineering team, as they had designed and built the chassis, the chassis carried the firm's name and it was powered by a Lamborghini engine, but they were adamant on having it named differently and went about registering it under a different name, resulting in the team known as Modena but the cars as Lambo 291's on the official entry list. "Modena" was also the surname of Stefano Modena, a driver who would be contesting the 1991 season for Tyrrell.
The Lambo 291 was a rather eye-catching and sleek looking chassis, with its distinctive blue colour scheme, triangular sidepods and slanting radiators. Slanting radiators would actually become a key Formula One design trend some years later, continuing to this day. Mauro Baldi was the first driver to test-drive the new car, testing it in late 1990. The team then hired former Minardi man Jaime Manca Graziadei as Team Manager, who resigned before the first GP of the season. Former Italian Formula 3 champion, Coloni and Osella driver Nicola Larini, and 1990 International F3000 runner-up Eric van de Poele were signed as the team's drivers. Mario Tolentino would be Larini's race engineer while former Formula One driver Dave Morgan was hired as van de Poele's engineer.
Both cars had to face pre-qualifying for the first half of the season and each driver only made it through into the race on one occasion - Larini eventually coming 7th at the opening United States Grand Prix, and van de Poele running 5th at the San Marino Grand Prix, and on course for 2 world championship points, before a problem with the fuel system brought him to a halt on the last lap, literally within sight of the flag, resulting in van de Poele being classified as 9th.
By mid-season the team were in financial difficulty, unable to secure any meaningful sponsorship and Lamborghini refusing to release any additional funds. Though the team were now clear of pre-qualifying when the process was reorganised, thanks to a count-back to Larini's 7th place at Phoenix, they were unable to make any progress. Larini got through to a further four races (spinning out of the German Grand Prix, coming 16th at the Hungarian Grand Prix and Italian Grand Prix and colliding with Jean Alesi at the Australian Grand Prix). Foghieri had also left his post as Technical Director mid-season to refocus on his role with Lamborghini Engineering and oversee the design of an all new engine for the 1992 Formula One season.
By season's end, Modena Team SpA were in debt and with Lamborghini no longer providing financial aid, the team was at the end of the road. Forghieri returned to try and organise Modena as a viable independent entity from Lamborghini Engineering, or attempt a merger with the Larrousse Formula One team or Reynard's stillborn F1 project to save the team. However, neither proposal came to fruition. The questions about its future had not prevented the team from independently commissioning Sergio Rinland to design a car for the 1992 Formula One season, a project Rinland had already begun in October 1991. Rumours were that the team would either use Judd V8 engines or continue the relationship with Lamborghini as engine suppliers. Ultimately, the team disappeared before the 1992 season, unable to overcome their financial problems.

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Re: Modena Team SpA

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:32 pm

Engine provider to Larrousse and Lotus

Think of different styles of sports cars, and various names spring to mind. If you think feline allure, you think of Jaguar. If you think of exotic passion, you think of Ferrari. Think muscle, and American examples like the Mustang, Viper and Camaro come to mind. But think dark, brooding menace, and only one name fits the bill: Lamborghini. A small company, but famous. In this age of big manufacturer involvement in F1, it's easy to forget the short period from 1989 to 1993 when the name of Lamborghini adorned the F1 grid as an engine supplier and, for one ill-fated season, as a chassis maker in itself. As with Jaguar these days, Lamborghini's participation in Grand Prix racing came as a result of the marque's takeover by an American car giant, in this case the Chrysler Corporation in 1987. Chrysler President Lee Iacocca wanted Lamborghini to enter F1, and appointed former Ferrari team manager Daniele Audetto to oversee a new group called Lamborghini Engineering. In addition he brought in Mauro Forghieri, who had been instrumental in Ferrari's successes in the 1970s and early 1980s, and gave him the task of designing a V12 engine for the 3.5-litre normally aspirated regulations for 1989.

Forghieri produced an 80-degree V12 engine, and during the course of 1988 it was announced that the Larrousse team would have exclusive use of the motor for 1989. Despite encouraging pre-season tests, it proved to be a learning year, culminating in a fabulous Spanish GP at Jerez where Philippe Alliot qualified 5th, scored Lamborghini's first ever point for finishing 6th, and recorded the 4th fastest lap of the race in the process. Along with the dominant Honda V10, the Ferrari V12 and the Renault V10, the Lamborghini was the only non-V8, and it became increasingly sought after. So much so that, before 1989 was out, Lamborghini had announced that they would be supplying not only Larrousse in 1990, but also the famous Lotus team, seeking an advantage after a year struggling with Judd V8s. As things turned out, a troublesome Lotus 102 chassis put paid to their chances, and Derek Warwick scored only 3 points throughout 1990. By comparison, Larrousse had a sensational year with Eric Bernard and Aguri Suzuki, finishing 6th in the constructors' championship with Suzuki scoring Japan and Lamborghini's first ever podium with 3rd place at Suzuka.

GLAS partnership falls through

But these were the days of engine suppliers, not engine partners like, say, Williams with BMW or McLaren with Mercedes-Benz, and with loyalty being worth precious little, come 1991 Lamborghini looked set to supply two completely different teams. One was Ligier, looking for an interim engine whilst waiting for the Renault V10s to come in 1992, which pinched the V12s from under Larrousse's nose. The other, however, looked set to be a new team called GLAS, financed by Mexican businessman Fernando Gonzalez Luna to the tune of some $20m, and to be run by former Italian journalist Leopoldo Canettoli. What's more, Lamborghini Engineering was expanding from just producing engines, and was going to design the chassis for the GLAS team as well. Forghieri and Mario Tolentino set about penning a prototype, and by the summer of 1990 it was ready for testing, only for Luna to disappear with his money. Despite the financial hole this created, Lamborghini were determined to go ahead with the project anyway, since they had an engine and a chassis, and Carlo Patrucco, an industrialist and former boss of the Fila company, took over as Team Principal.

Towards the end of 1990, former Alfa Romeo and Spirit driver Mauro Baldi tested what became known as the Lamborghini 291, a distinctive dark blue chassis with triangular side pods and slanting radiators. The team was entered for the 1991 World Championship as Scuderia Modena SpA, which caused no end of confusion. For essentially this was the Lamborghini Engineering team, and yet they had called themselves 'Modena', same as the town in the Italian motor racing heartland, and same as Stefano Modena, who would be driving for Tyrrell Honda in 1991. Tolentino and Augusto Bovati were touted as provisional team managers, but eventually that job fell to ex-Minardi man Jaime Manca Graziadei, although with Forghieri as Technical Director in addition to his role at Lamborghini Engineering, Graziadei's role was limited. Former Italian F3 champ and Coloni and Osella driver Nicola Larini was to pilot one car, with 1987 German Touring Car Champion and 1990 F3000 runner-up Eric van de Poele in the other. Tolentino was to engineer Larini's car, while another former F1 driver Dave Morgan would look after van de Poele's.

Fate thwarts van de Poele 5th at Imola

Although the team would have to undergo pre-qualifying, the ingredients were there to give them cause for optimism. They had two combative drivers, an engine that had done well the previous year, and much experience in the team's management. When Baldi had initially tested the car at Imola, it had recorded times similar to those of the bottom-rung teams in F1. So there was some hope that the Lambos could haul themselves into the top four in pre-qualifying, and thereby progress to the main qualifying round where being in the top 26 out of 30 would ensure a place on the grid. The 1991 season started deceptively well for the team. Whilst van de Poele not unexpectedly struggled in pre-qualifying, Larini sailed through easily, and got on the grid in a marvellous 17th place, only 4.357s off pole position. In a race of attrition which reached the two-hour time limit despite the weather being bone dry, perhaps the fact that the Lambo prototypes had already been designed and built by late 1990 became a telling factor. The Italian managed to finish the race in 7th place, albeit 5 laps behind Ayrton Senna. Little did the team know how important that result would prove.

But this was nothing compared to what van de Poele came ever so close to achieving in round three at Imola. Whilst Larini did not pre-qualify, the Belgian did and also made it onto 21st on the grid. A wet race with plenty of carnage saw him climb up the field, and stay ahead of Mika Hakkinen's Lotus. On the last lap, he was running a miraculous 5th and looking set to score two points, when fuel pressure problems hit, literally within sight of the flag. That van de Poele was eventually classified 9th was little consolation. Lambo had come within metres of scoring 2 points in what was their home Grand Prix. However, these were the only rays of sunshine in what was otherwise a bleak first half of the 1991 season. So often the Lambos were on the cusp of pre-qualifying, but apart from Phoenix and Imola, they just missed out each and every time, despite sometimes recording times that could have eventually put them on the grid. Friction also emerged over Forghieri's management style. At Imola, Graziadei lamented: "There really hasn't been much organisation of any sort except for that of Mauro which doesn't really give anyone else a chance to exert any influence on the direction of the team."

Out of pre-qualifying, but not onto grids

So before the British GP, from 16 entries for the two cars, Lambo's record read a 7th, a 9th, a disqualification from the meet (Larini in Mexico for a technical infringement), and 13 DNPQs. But after Silverstone, the pre-qualifying list was to be re-drawn. The top 13 teams from the previous two half-seasons went automatically into qualifying. The other five had to fight it out in pre-qualifying for the final four spots in qualifying. After Britain, Williams, McLaren, Ferrari, Benetton, Jordan, Tyrrell, Dallara, Minardi, Lotus and Larrousse had all scored points in the first half of 1991, and were therefore safe. Mauricio Gugelmin had scored a point for Leyton House in the second half of 1990, and so that team was the 11th automatically into qualifying. From then it was a matter of count-back. Larini himself had finished 7th for Ligier twice in the second half of 1990, which got the French team in, which left just Brabham, Footwork, Fondmetal, AGS, Coloni and Lambo. In terms of 7th places, only Lambo had scored one - Larini's result in Phoenix. That was enough to make Lambo the 13th best team and put both their cars into the main qualifying draw, consigning the other five to pre-qualifying.

It was an unlucky break for the likes of Mark Blundell and Martin Brundle in the Brabhams, and for Michele Alboreto and Alex Caffi in the Footworks, which looked set to improve on their dismal form in the first half of 1991 after ditching the disastrous Porsche engine. On the other hand, van de Poele never really looked like ever making the grid, most likely a result of receiving what looked to be the second-best of everything within the Lambo team. In the second half of 1991, Eric was only ever either 29th or 30th quickest in qualifying, only getting within 5s of pole once, in Adelaide. Larini fared somewhat better, making use of his automatic entry into qualifying and the grippier track that came with it. He started 24th in Germany, but spun out on the first lap after a touch with Brundle. He was 24th again in Hungary, and circulated steadily to come home 16th, 3 laps down. Despite more DNQs in Belgium, Portugal, Spain and Japan, he finished 16th again from 23rd on the grid in Italy. In Australia he qualified 19th, within 4 seconds of pole (a good effort considering Lambo had a skeleton crew for the fly-away races), but was caught out in the appalling rain, colliding on the back straight with Jean Alesi's Ferrari and Michael Schumacher's Benetton.

Team folds, but Lamborghini stays in F1 for a while

All in all, though, it had been a disappointing campaign. The team itself as Modena SpA had run up huge debts, was in money trouble as early as the Canadian GP in June, and was unable to attract much by the way of sponsorship. The engine had begun to show its age, and Forghieri had actually left his post as Technical Director during the season to concentrate on the design of a new 60-valve V12 engine. Alternatively, towards the end of 1991 he tried to re-enter the fray to organise Scuderia Modena SpA for independence from Lamborghini Engineering, but attempted mergers with the Larrousse team and the stillborn Reynard F1 project never eventuated. In October 1991, Sergio Rinland had actually been commissioned to design a new chassis for 1992, although whether the team as an independent entity was going to use a Judd engine or maintain its ties with Lamborghini and use their new V12 was still up in the air. In the end it made no difference, with the team closing its doors after a single season in operation, and with Forghieri concentrating instead on the new Lamborghini motor, which ended up with Venturi Larrousse and Minardi in 1992. That year, Larrousse scored 1 point with Bertrand Gachot, and Minardi scored 2 via Christian Fittipaldi.

But in 1992, there had also been management changes at Chrysler. New chairman Bob Eaton took an all-or-nothing approach. Not wishing to be just a low-profile engine supplier, throughout 1993, during which Larrousse was the only team left using the V12s, Eaton pushed for the engines to be re-badged as Chryslers for 1994, and for a link-up with a top team. Simultaneously, McLaren were looking for a long-term engine partner, and after talks between Eaton and Ron Dennis, McLaren built a test car for the Lamborghini engine which both Ayrton Senna and Mika Hakkinen tried out. In the end, and perhaps in error, Dennis did a deal with Peugeot. Larrousse had struck financial problems and could no longer afford to pay, and so Chrysler looked set to pull out of F1. Indeed, in November 1993 it sold Lamborghini altogether to an Indonesian group called Megatech, and the F1 project was canned. Thus ended Lamborghini's F1 efforts, which had peaked in that 1991 season when they designed both the Modena chassis and engine. The Modena Lambo outfit had by no means been the shabbiest to ever enter F1, but it once again showed just what a tough nut F1 was to crack.

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