Pacific Grand Prix

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Pacific Grand Prix

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 10, 2017 8:38 pm

Pacific Racing had won in every junior category it had participated in, and by 1992 Wiggins was determined that it would make the step up to F1 for the 1993 season, in the process renaming the team as Pacific Grand Prix. Lacking an in-house engineering staff and conscious of how limited his timescale was, Wiggins contacted F3000 constructor Reynard Racing to design and build the new PR01 chassis, hoping to benefit from several years of research and development that Reynard had invested in their recently scrapped in-house F1 project. Unfortunately for Pacific, the Rory Byrne-led design team had gone to Benetton at the end of 1991 and Reynard had sold the design (still in form of paper drawings) to Ligier. The small PR01 design team, working at Reynard but nominally employed by Pacific to conform to FIA Regulations, were forced to start a new design based on what little of the Reynard F1 research remained and utilizing a number of minor components from Reynard's F3000 chassis in an attempt to constrain costs. With their roots in the same project, the resulting Benetton B193, Ligier JS37 and Pacific PR01 shared the same slab-sided, raised-nose profile that later became standard in Formula One.
They instead postponed their entry in January 1993[1] because of a recession and resulting failure of investors to pay up[citation needed].
They were unable to enter F1 until 1994. The year was a disaster. Paul Belmondo and former Jordan driver Bertrand Gachot started the season as drivers, with Oliver Gavin testing. The PR01, designed for the 1993 season, had undergone none of the vital wind tunnel testing required to refine the car's aerodynamics, had seen only a few dozen miles of track testing and its Ilmor 3.5 L V10 engine was underpowered by 1994 standards. That season the team did not finish a single race and from the French Grand Prix onwards, neither car qualified. They scored a total of zero points that season.
By 1995, Pacific had merged with the dying Team Lotus.[2] The obsolete Ilmor engines had been replaced by Ford ED V8s and a whole host of new sponsors were brought in. Good news also came when the PR02 was guaranteed a start each race, with Larrousse and Lotus disappearing from the entry lists and only Forti coming in. Belmondo had been replaced with Andrea Montermini. Having had no luck in the first half of the season, team partner Gachot vacated his seat in mid-1995, making way for infamous paydrivers Giovanni Lavaggi (four races, four DNFs) and Jean-Denis Délétraz (two races, one DNF, one NC). Gachot later returned after the money of the two pay-drivers dried up and two drivers Wiggins wanted to run (Formula Nippon driver Katsumi Yamamoto for Okayama and Suzuka and test driver Oliver Gavin for Australia) were denied superlicences. Pacific's best finishes that season were 8th in the German and Australian Grands Prix.

At the end of the 1995 season, the team withdrew from Formula One and Wiggins went back to Formula 3000, resurrecting Pacific Racing with Oliver Tichy and Marc Gené as drivers.

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Re: Pacific Grand Prix

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 10, 2017 9:38 pm

Wiggins and Pacific team with Gachot and Lehto

When the Pacific Grand Prix team entered Formula One in 1994, its boss Keith Wiggins made the following bold statement: "I know that being successful in F1 takes a long time, but that's no reason for believing that you should be content to lose. Being professional, well organised and well presented does not require a lot of money, or even the best drivers. You can be one of the top teams in terms of professionalism, image and approach immediately." Call it realistic, or call it misguided, it was certainly a confident if somewhat concessionary claim. Perhaps someone should have reminded him that, regardless of how glamorous F1 is, and the exposure it gets, at the end of the day it's results that matter, and anything else is just a moral victory that counts for nothing but kudos. And the truth is, while professionalism and organisational approach can certainly help in obtaining results, at the end of the day you don't get them if you don't have enough money, and hence if you don't have the equipment or resources to get the job done. In its two years in F1, Pacific found this out the hard way.

That Wiggins knew how to organise a motor-racing team was never in doubt. In lower categories, where cars are relatively equal and organisational ability does count, Pacific's record was exceptional. Indeed, in the early years, everything Wiggins touched seemed to turn to gold. A former mechanic and racer himself, Wiggins established Pacific at Snetterton premises in 1984, and with Marlboro sponsorship immediately took Norwegian driver Harald Huysmans to both the Benelux and European Formula Ford 1600 championships. When Huysmans moved into F3 in 1985, he introduced Wiggins to another promising young driver, Luxembourg-born Bertrand Gachot. Pacific fielded a Reynard for Gachot in British Formula Ford 1600, and, although he may not have realised it at the time, Wiggins had made two important relationships for the future. At any rate, Gachot won the title, and then the Formula Ford 2000 series as well in 1986 before he moved on and Pacific brought in JJ Lehto to replace him. The Finn won both the British and European FF2000 titles, and it was now time for both driver and team to switch categories.

Winning every category it contested, Pacific eyes F1

Having dominated the Formula Ford scene, Wiggins, Pacific and Lehto set their sights on the British F3 championship in 1988, and together they walked off with the prize at their first attempt. Refusing to stay in the category any longer, the combination moved into F3000 in 1989, with Eddie Irvine joining the team to drive a second Reynard. But for once Pacific were unable to blitz the field immediately, and in 1990 the Marlboro backing departed, Wiggins switched to a Lola chassis, and was forced to employ a series of pay drivers such as Canadian Stephane Proulx. After this downturn in fortunes Pacific returned to a Reynard chassis in 1991, and took on Christian Fittipaldi and Antonio Tamburini. The pair took three wins, and Fittipaldi became F3000 champion. This renewed success lured back the Marlboro backing, but in 1992 new drivers Laurent Aiello and Jordi Gene were unable to repeat the success. Pacific then had one final year in the category in 1993, when they ran David Coulthard and Michael Bartels, with the Scot in contention for the title until the very last race of the season. But by now Wiggins was already focussing on another project.

By 1992, with Pacific having won every junior category it had contested, Wiggins wanted to move into F1, his initial target being a partnership with the Tyrrell team, but that never eventuated. So in September that year, he established Pacific Grand Prix with the aim of entering the World Championship on his own in 1993. He had even done a deal to run Cosworth HB V8 engines. But after spending a million pounds, recession hit, cheques bounced, and on the verge of bankruptcy, Wiggins had to wait another year, and thus went back to F3000 instead. But there was no stopping from Pacific entering in 1994. Wiggins signed an engine deal with Ilmor for 1992-spec engines which would nonetheless account for 40% of Pacific's budget. Chassis-wise, thanks to his long relationship with Reynard, Pacific picked up the remnants of their stillborn attempt to enter F1 on their own, and Reynard Composites built the PR01 chassis. At the team's base in Thetford, Norfolk, Wiggins assembled a team which included Paul Brown as chief designer, Ian Dawson as team manager, Graeme Glew as commercial consultant, and Paul Owens as race engineer.

First steps bring two race starts

The PR01 bore similarities - on the outside, at least - to the Benetton with its raised shark-nose, ran on Goodyear tyres and also used the Reynard transverse 6-speed sequential gearbox. AP supplied the brake callipers, and Carbone the brake discs and pads. The car used NGK spark plugs and Elf fuel. Wiggins renewed his association with Gachot who was signed to drive one car, while Paul Belmondo bought his way into the second seat. Promising British driver Oliver Gavin earned test duties with the team, both he and Gachot bringing some money to complement Belmondo's millions. But pre-season testing was ominous. There were installation problems with the Ilmor 3.5 litre V10, followed by a succession of failures from the outdated powerplant. The chassis was also ill-handling; tests revealed that it had the structural rigidity of "a paper bag", in the words of Autosport. Put it another way: at the season opener in Brazil, Gachot qualified a respectable 25th, ahead of David Brabham's Simtek, while Belmondo didn't record a time. But although Gachot was taken out in a collision on lap 3, that weekend the team had done more miles than in all of pre-season testing!

Indeed, the Brazilian weekend would be the only one in which Pacific even remotely looked like having the upper hand performance-wise over fellow debutants Simtek. As the season progressed, while the Simteks were roughly on or just behind the pace of the Lotuses and Larrousses, the Pacifics would be some way back still. All things being normal, after the Pacific GP at Aida, when neither Pacific car could beat Roland Ratzenberger to the last grid spot, Wiggins must have realised that, without drastic improvement, his team would hardly get on the grid all year. But, luckily for Pacific in a very macabre way, 1994 was not a normal year. During the dreadful weekend at Imola, after Rubens Barrichello had his accident on the Friday, a grid freed up a spot for Gachot, who duly qualified 25th ahead of Ratzenberger. But, tragically, the Austrian was then killed on the Saturday, yet Belmondo was not promoted up to the last spot. Gachot narrowly avoided Pedro Lamy's self-destructing Lotus at the start, and then quietly retired with engine problems after 23 laps on the darkest day in modern Grand Prix racing.

Missing cars give Pacific grid opportunities

While the awful circumstances of Imola and subsequent events contrived to give the Pacifics a number of starts which normally they would not have had the pace to earn, it also meant that a potentially vital sponsorship deal went begging. Before the San Marino GP, Wiggins had allegedly found backing from appropriately-named "Death Cigarettes", sponsorship which was meant to come into effect after Imola. Needless to say, this this was hardly in good taste after the events of the dreadful weekend, and as a result the deal came to nought. When Williams and Simtek did not run a second car at Monaco, both Pacifics were assured of starts. Then when both Saubers were then withdrawn after Karl Wendlinger's accident in practice, Gachot and Belmondo were guaranteed 23rd and 24th spot on the grid. As it was, Gachot was over a second slower than Brabham, and Belmondo over 10 seconds behind Gachot and over 18 seconds off pole. Truth be told though, Belmondo was usually close to Gachot's pace. Gachot had a gearbox failure after 49 laps, and Belmondo suffered cramp and numbness which forced him out after 53.

Then in Spain there was still no second Sauber, so at least one Pacific would start. On the Friday, both Pacifics were faster than Andrea Montermini's Simtek, so things were looking promising for a double-start. But when the Italian crashed violently on the Saturday and injured himself to add to Simtek's misery, that ensured that once again Wiggins had both his cars on the grid. It would be the last time that would happen all year. But Belmondo spun off after just two laps, and Gachot retired with wing failure after 32 laps. Subsequently, for Canada, although now Andrea de Cesaris filled the second Sauber seat, Montermini's absence meant that once again there would be at least one Pacific on the grid. As it turned out, Gachot beat Belmondo to 26th spot by just over 0.1s, but was still over a second off Brabham's Simtek. Another engine failure put paid to Bertrand's race after 47 laps. And with normal service resuming from France onwards, as Jean-Marc Gounon filled the second Simtek seat to guarantee a full entry list, Pacific never graced the grid in 1994 again.

DNQ nightmare ends and sights turn to 1995

On good days Gachot might be within a second of the 26th spot, but usually they were too far away to trouble the Simteks. For instance, they were over two seconds off the grid in France, Germany and Italy. Even at Jerez, when it was thought that Gachot could beat newcomers Hideki Noda in the Larrousse and Mimmo Schiattarella in the Simtek, the underrated Italian was still about 1.5 seconds faster than the best the PR01 could achieve. In Japan, even Taki Inoue's Simtek was over 1.3 seconds faster than Gachot, despite being over 3 seconds off Mika Salo's 25th placed Lotus. But, true to their word, Pacific had remained professional throughout. They kept plugging on and trying to make improvements, despite the limitations of their mediocre chassis, the outmoded engine, and the fact that finances remained tight. Although early in the season they had already sold much of their aerodynamic data to Ligier, they searched in vain for innovations. Towards the end of the season, they even dumped the high shark nose and reverted to a more attractive droop nose, but it made little or no difference to the team's fortunes.

But on the all-important results sheet, Pacific's 1994 campaign had been next to hopeless, and the team easily proved to be the worst-performed in pit lane. To sum things up, in Belgium they were given a garage between Benetton and Williams, the cynics saying that this allowed the big boys more space when Pacific packed up on Saturday night as they inevitably did. And at the season-ending meet in Adelaide, Gachot declared that Saturday to have been one of the happiest days of his life, because it mean he would never have to drive the PR01 again. Praise indeed! Yet Wiggins was sticking to his guns, and intent on making a better fist of 1995. He commissioned a new design from Frank Coppuck, Peter Ellingham, Geoff Aldridge and aerodynamicist Dave Watson, and over the off-season entered into a partnership with what was left of the Lotus team. For 1995, the team would officially be known as Pacific Team Lotus, but as the season wore on, most observers probably found it too cringe-worthy to associate Lotus with Pacific. All the same, when the PR02 was revealed, it had a new blue colour scheme with green striping that included the Lotus logo.

Grid places guaranteed, but the finances weren't

More unusual was the unusual 'tea-tray' that stuck out at the front of the nose, although admittedly the Williams FW16 of 1994 had also featured a sort of 'dolphin nose', but not to such a garish extent. Having said that, in a year which also saw McLaren introduce its mid-wing monstrosity, Pacific's tea-tray was aesthetically pleasing by comparison. The PR02 also had relatively high side-pods, and also a healthy list of little sponsors, including Interflora, Ursus, Icol, Hewlett Packard, Catamaran, Quest International, Bellerose, Kenwood, MIRA and Cargo Express. On the technical front, the obsolete Ilmors had been replaced with the more reliable but equally slow customer Ford ED V8s. Gachot, who along with Japanese businessman Ko Gotoh had become shareholders in the team, would remain on the driving front, but the other driver was a late choice. Originally it was thought that Lamy would get the nod, but come Brazil, it was Montermini in the car. Though the Italian was not at all without ability, he was mainly in the team because he could help to pay the bills, not that he contributed too much throughout the season.

The good news was that, with Lotus and Larrousse having fallen by the wayside, and only Forti joining the ranks, there were only 26 entries per race, and at the very least the Pacifics were guaranteed of a start each time. But it was a right-royal battle to avoid being the worst-performing team at the back of the grid between the Pacifics and their fellows strugglers, the Simteks, the Fortis, and the hapless Inoue's Footwork, although Simtek showed that they had quite a competitive car capable of running safely in midfield before they folded mid-season. Though the PR02s initially had the upper hand in qualifying over the Fortis and Inoue, towards the end of 1995 they were more evenly matched, as development ground to a halt. With so little money, Pacific limited running time to save engine mileage, and often stretched gearboxes to breaking point. Brazil brought Pacific's best qualifying ever, Gachot just making the top 20, and Montermini starting 22nd, with the Italian bringing home the team's first ever finish in 9th spot. But then Argentina then saw both cars ominously eliminated within the first two laps by Wendlinger's errant Sauber.

Pacific resorts to pay-drivers Lavaggi and Deletraz

For the rest of the season, money would be an inherent problem, to the point where Gachot relinquished his seat mid-season so that others could pay for a drive. Giovanni Lavaggi obliged for 4 races, and gave a fair account of himself, before Jean-Denis Deletraz filled the breach and delivered some unfortunate, if infamous, performances. After the Swiss driver defaulted on payment, Wiggins wanted Katsumi Yamamoto to drive in the Japanese races, and Oliver Gavin in Australia, but neither were granted a superlicence, so Gachot was forced to resume driving duties. In terms of results, Pacific's season was blighted by gearbox failures. There were ten gearbox-related retirements in races throughout the year, an incredibly high failure rate for the one component. Their drivers also had a nasty habit of falling off the road and getting caught up in incidents. Montermini spun off in Britain, Lavaggi did likewise in Hungary and Italy, while Montermini was involved in a first lap collision in France, and race-stopping incidents in Italy and Portugal. Add to that a gamut of other reliability problems, and finishes were few and far between.

For a team which prided itself on its organisational ability there was also an embarrassing mishap at Monaco, when Montermini was adjudged to have jumped the start. When given a stop-go penalty, the team took 5 laps to bring him in instead of the statutory 3, and Andrea was duly disqualified and shown the black flag. Other than that, Montermini was not classified in France after finishing 10 laps down, but did come home 8th in Germany and 12th in Hungary. Gachot was 12th in Britain and 8th in Australia, while Deletraz dawdled home 15th at the Nurburgring. The European GP there provided Pacific with highs and lows that neatly summarised their season. In the early wet conditions, with the McLarens struggling on slicks, Deletraz miraculously passed Mark Blundell, and Montermini got by Mika Hakkinen. Unfortunately the team could not relay this to the Italian by pit board, because, quite understandably, they never had the name 'Hakkinen' on hand! However, just when things seemed to be going their way, when Montermini came in, he ran over refueller Paul Summerfield, breaking his leg, and promptly ran out of fuel.

Not disgraced, Wiggins heads to F3000 then the USA

Pacific had done OK in their second season, gearbox notwithstanding. Those two 8th place finishes were simply stellar efforts, and would be the best in their F1 history. Though it was rumoured that for 1996 Pacific would have 1995 Yamaha engines badged as Judd powerplants, the truth was that Pacific simply didn't have any more money. Add to that there would be the new 107% rule for qualifying in 1996. Had it applied in 1995, then Pacific would rarely have been allowed to start. In the end, Wiggins did the right thing and withdrew from F1 to count his considerable losses. Pacific returned to F3000 in 1996, running Patrick Lemarie and Cristiano da Matta, and Olivier Tichy and Marc Gene the following season, although before 1997 was over, Wiggins had withdrawn, and that was the end of the Pacific name. Wiggins also tried to run a sports car team under the BRM banner which lasted until October 1997, before he went to the USA to assist Lola's CART project, eventually joining Bettenhausen Racing. Upon Tony Bettenhausen's death it became the Herdez Competition team, which remains one of Champ Car's leading teams today, under Wiggins' management.


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