Forti Corse

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Forti Corse

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:23 pm

Forti Corse, commonly known as Forti, was an Italian motor racing team chiefly known for its brief and unsuccessful involvement in Formula One in the mid-1990s. It was established in the late 1970s and competed in lower formulae for two decades. The team's successes during this period included four Drivers' Championships in Italian Formula Three during the 1980s, and race wins in the International Formula 3000 championship, in which it competed from 1987 to 1994. From 1992, team co-founder Guido Forti developed a relationship with the wealthy Brazilian businessman Abílio dos Santos Diniz that gave Diniz's racing driver son, Pedro, a permanent seat in the team and the outfit a sufficiently high budget to consider entering Formula One.
Forti graduated to Formula One as a constructor and entrant in 1995, but its first car—the Forti FG01—proved to be uncompetitive, and the team failed to score a point. Despite this setback, Forti was committed to a three-year deal with Diniz, which was broken when Pedro moved to the Ligier team prior to the 1996 season, taking most of the team's sponsorship money with him. Nevertheless, Forti continued to compete in the sport, and produced the much-improved FG03 chassis, before succumbing to financial problems mid-season after an ultimately fruitless deal with a mysterious entity known as Shannon Racing. The team competed in a total of 27 Grands Prix, scoring no points, and is recognised as one of the last truly privateer teams to race in an era when many large car manufacturers were increasing their involvement in the sport.


Establishment and early years

Forti was founded by Italian businessmen Guido Forti, a former driver, and Paolo Guerci, an engineer, in the late 1970s and was based in Alessandria in northern Italy.[1][2][3] It was registered as a Società a Responsabilità Limitata, or Limited liability company.[2] It was initially run in lower motor racing categories such as Formula Ford and Formula Three, both at Italian and European levels. The team was well equipped and soon became a regular winner. Forti drivers Franco Forini, Enrico Bertaggia, Emanuele Naspetti and Gianni Morbidelli (who would all go on to drive in Formula One) won Italian Formula Three titles in 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989 respectively. In addition, Bertaggia won the prestigious Macau F3 Grand Prix and the Monaco Grand Prix F3 support race in 1988,[2] and Morbidelli won the FIA European Formula Three Cup in 1989.[4] Teo Fabi and Oscar Larrauri also raced for the team in its early years, the former winning the Italian FFord 2000 championship in 1977, and the latter racing as far afield as South America, in the Argentine Formula Three Championship.[2] Forti continued racing in Formula Three until the end of 1992, when it quit the formula in order to concentrate solely on International Formula 3000.


Formula One - Preparation

As his team became more successful, Guido Forti started to think about a move upwards, into Formula One. However, there had been several discouragingly recent examples of teams, such as Coloni and Onyx, which had graduated from F3000 into Formula One and failed more or less immediately due to a lack of finance. Conversely, Eddie Jordan had shown that the move could be made successfully, with an impressive performance in 1991 with his Jordan team, which had finished fifth in the Constructors' Championship with a total of seven points-scoring finishes. Forti considered a solid financial base to be the most important factor for success. In 1991 he therefore started working on his Formula One project. At the end of 1992, he signed a deal with wealthy Brazilian driver Pedro Diniz, whose personal fortune and sponsorship connections proved invaluable in increasing the team's budget.[2] Diniz's father, Abílio dos Santos, was the owner of the large Brazilian distribution company Companhia Brasileira de Distribuição and the supermarket chain Pão de Açúcar. By offering companies preferential product-placement in the Brazilian market, the Diniz family was able to obtain personal sponsorship deals with brands such as Arisco, Duracell, Gillette, Kaiser, Marlboro, Parmalat and Sadia, in addition to backing from Unibanco, to fund Pedro's career.[5][6] By 1993, through Abílio dos Santos, Forti met Carlo Gancia, an Italo-Brazilian businessman.[2] Gancia became a co-owner of the team, buying Guerci's shares, and started working on the team's Formula One project. He finally managed to ensure a respectable budget for Formula One by late 1994, which was "effectively underwritten by the Diniz family".[2] He also hired several experienced personnel, including designer Sergio Rinland and former Ferrari team manager Cesare Fiorio.[2] Furthermore, retired driver René Arnoux was employed as a consultant and driver coach for Diniz.[7] Guerci remained with Forti as one of its race engineers.[8]
This securing of financial assistance and recruitment of staff meant that Forti's ability to participate in Formula One for 1995 was assured. Financed by the companies brought in by Abílio Diniz,[9] the team was guaranteed financial stability in the short term, with a claimed first year budget of around $17 million.[10] In addition, this was only the first year of a planned three-year contract with Diniz and his backers.


Forti FG01 car

The hardest task for the team was designing and building its own car for the first time, instead of buying one from a general supplier such as Dallara or Lola, as was required by the Formula One Technical Regulations. Guido Forti's first attempt at an F1 chassis, the Forti FG01, resulted in an outdated, overweight and very slow machine, and has been described as nothing more than "a revised F3000 car"[11] and, more harshly, "a fearful pile of junk".

The FG01 had many influences. Design consultant Rinland had previously worked on the Brabham BT60 chassis in 1991 and Fondmetal GR02 chassis in 1992, the latter under the auspices of his own company, Astauto, before moving to the United States to work on a Champ Car project. In late 1994, Forti bought the remaining assets of the now defunct Fondmetal team, including the remaining GR02 chassis, and requested Rinland's assistance in developing the bespoke Forti chassis based on a planned Fondmetal chassis for the 1993 season. Rinland thus provided a great deal of input on the FG01 chassis,[13] assisting experienced Italian engineers Giorgio Stirano[1] and Giacomo Caliri in designing and building the car.[3][10] The car's aerodynamics were completed by former Brabham, Fondmetal and Astauto employee Hans Fouche using wind tunnels in South Africa, and composite work was done by the Belco Avia company.[2][10] However, it was rumoured that the FG01 was little more than a re-working of the GR02.[10]
Thus the FG01 did not promise much in terms of performance. It was angular and bulky, with poor aerodynamic performance negatively affecting grip and handling; it had a plump nose, initially no airbox, and was overweight and under-powered, using a small Ford-Cosworth ED V8 customer engine largely financed by Ford do Brasil, which developed an estimated 100 bhp less than the most powerful engine in the field, the Renault V10 supplied to the Benetton and Williams teams.[14] It was also the only car to have a manual gearbox in the 1995 F1 season. The car was liveried in a distinctive yellow-and-blue colour scheme accompanied by fluorescent green wheel-rims, illustrating the team's Brazilian influence in its first year. The precise hue of each colour was chosen as a tribute to Ayrton Senna, who had been killed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix; the cars were liveried in identical shades to those used on the Brazilian's helmet design.


1995 Season

Forti's number one driver for the 1995 season was rookie Pedro Diniz who had raced for Forti in F3000, but without much success. However, he was guaranteed a seat as his family and sponsors were paying a significant amount of the team's budget.[1] The second driver was later confirmed as his more experienced compatriot Roberto Moreno, who had last competed in F1 back in 1992 when he had a disastrous year driving for the infamous Andrea Moda team. However, his seat was initially only guaranteed on a race-by-race basis,[15] as Portuguese driver Pedro Lamy, in addition to the team's former F3000 drivers Emanuele Naspetti and Andrea Montermini, were also considered.[3][16] It was speculated that whoever joined the team would be contractually bound to be number two to Diniz and that his father had insisted on an all-Brazilian driver line-up.[6][11][17] A Forti spokesman indeed confirmed that Moreno's nationality, in addition to his experience, was the main reason for his selection.[18] The team later attempted to enter its former F3000 driver Hideki Noda for the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix, but he was refused an FIA Super Licence.[19]
Unlike some of the existing teams, Forti was able to test its chassis extensively prior to the start of the season.[1] However, Diniz proved to be around seven seconds per lap off the pace of the leading runners in group testing at the Estoril circuit in March, indicating that the team was likely to be mired at the back of the field.[13] Diniz finished 10th in the season-opening Brazilian GP, but was seven laps down on winner Michael Schumacher. In Argentina, this situation became worse, as, although both drivers finished, they were both nine laps down on winner Damon Hill at the end of the race (with Diniz ahead) and neither were classified, as they had failed to complete 90% of the race distance. The drivers' similar fastest laps during the race were over ten seconds slower than Schumacher's fastest race lap, and almost five seconds slower than the next slowest runner's fastest lap (Domenico Schiattarella in the Simtek).[20] Imola was similarly poor, as both drivers finished seven laps down (with Diniz again ahead) and again failed to reach the 90% threshold for classification. Forti was already the butt of paddock jokes,[1] and were far slower than the other (and financially poorer) backmarkers: Pacific, Simtek, and Minardi. However, the budget enabled improvements to be made to the car. During the season, its weight was reduced by a significant 60 kilograms (approximately 10% of the F1 minimum weight limit of 595 kg[1]), and a semi-automatic gearbox, an airbox and redesigns of the front wing, sidepods and monocoque were introduced. The personnel count also doubled during the course of the season.[1] This resulted in a gradual improvement in pace throughout the year, and there were no more non-classified finishes.
In between the Brazilian and Argentine Grands Prix, Rinland returned to Europe full-time to take the official post of the team's Technical Director.[15] His long-term task was to establish an English-based design office for the team, but his initial job was to improve the competitiveness of the FG01 through a series of technical upgrades. However, Rinland subsequently left the team after a few weeks, after falling out with the team's management over the car's lack of competitiveness.

Indeed, Forti's finishing record was good for rookies at 50% (excluding the non-classifications),[21] helping Diniz to establish a reputation as a steady, dependable driver.[1] Forti were then elevated when Simtek folded after the Monaco GP, and Pacific's lack of finance and development enabled Forti to start matching them from the half-way point of the season.[1] At the German GP, both Fortis outqualified both the Pacifics for the first time, and this happened on two further occasions during 1995. Forti's improvement was also aided by Pacific taking on two slower pay drivers, Giovanni Lavaggi and Jean-Denis Délétraz, to ensure that the team finished the season. At the final race of the season, in Adelaide, Forti seemed to have established a firm base for the 1996 season, emphasised by Moreno qualifying within 107% of pole position for the first time - a crucial result, as this percentage of the pole time would be used to determine non-qualifiers in 1996 - and Diniz scoring the team's best result in F1, with a reliable run to seventh place, ahead of Gachot in the Pacific. This was only one position behind the points-scoring placings.[22] Nevertheless, despite not scoring any points, Forti finished a de facto 11th in the Constructors' Championship, ahead of Pacific and Simtek by virtue of better finishes outside of the points.
Post-championship, Forti took part in the 1995 Bologna Motor Show, where three FG01s—driven by Montermini, Lavaggi and Vittorio Zoboli—raced against, and lost to three Minardis in the Formula One Indoor Trophy.[23][24]
Despite the progress made by Forti during the course of the season, 1995 was still regarded as a failure. The team had spent more money than its immediate rivals in designing, building and developing a fundamentally inefficient car.[10] Diniz and his sponsors were described as "throwing their money away",[12] and the Brazilian's reputation as a serious F1 driver was damaged, as it took him several years to prove that he was not just in the sport because of his funding.[25] In addition, Moreno's participation with Forti was lamented by many observers, who felt that the experienced driver did not deserve the ignominy of such an uncompetitive car.[12] The only positives were the reasonable reliability record and the fact that the Diniz family were contracted to fund the team for the next two years.



1996 Season

With a solid base to build on and a healthy budget, 1996 looked promising for Forti.[1] The team negotiated for the most powerful and expensive Cosworth V8 engines in late 1995 to replace the outdated and underpowered ED models,[26] and its financial security was demonstrated by rumours during the 1995 season that the more competitive but less well-funded Minardi team was considering a merger with Forti as a means of maintaining its own presence in the sport.[27] However, these aspirations were dealt a devastating blow when Pedro Diniz signed for the more competitive Ligier team, taking Martin Brundle's vacated seat as the latter moved to Jordan. Forti's sponsors brought in by the Diniz family, including Parmalat and Marlboro, all left; the budget was significantly dented. For a time it seemed that the team would not compete in 1996 at all,[28] and its survival was constantly questioned.[9] The new car was delayed, and the team was forced to use the uprated FG01B car for the start of the season with the only slightly more competitive Ford Zetec-R V8 engine (instead of the "JS" unit it had been negotiating for),[29] and to rely on temporary sponsors. Nevertheless, Forti remained in the sport for the 1996 season. Moreno was not retained; the team signed Minardi and Pacific refugees Luca Badoer[30] and Montermini to take the two empty seats (although Hideki Noda was also considered[31]), both drivers bringing a small amount of personal backing. Frenchman Franck Lagorce was also signed as a test driver.[2] Pacific had folded during the off-season, and it was clear that Forti would be some way behind the rest of the field in the slow FG01B.[29] Badoer and Montermini failed to make the new 107% cut in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix and thus did not start the race, but both then managed to qualify for the Grands Prix held in Brazil and Argentina, scoring a 10th- and an 11th-place finish between them in the races. Badoer, however, attracted attention in Argentina for a different reason. As Diniz attempted to lap him, the two collided and Badoer's car flipped over; the Italian escaping injury. Both cars then failed to qualify at the Nürburgring.

Forti produced a new chassis, the FG03, for the next race of the season in Imola. It had been designed by the same personnel as the previous year, with further work carried out by George Ryton after the latter moved to the team from Ferrari and took up the post of Technical Director mid-season.[32][33] Both drivers judged it a significant improvement over the old car, with increased aerodynamic downforce and directional sensitivity,[29] but there was only one FG03 available, and Montermini failed to qualify in the old car. Badoer, however, qualified last, but comfortably within the 107% cut-off, and only 0.7s behind Ricardo Rosset in the Footwork. Badoer finished 10th and last, but had suffered reliability problems in the new car and was two laps behind Pedro Lamy's Minardi. Both drivers qualified in Monaco, but Montermini crashed in the wet warm-up session and did not start the race, whilst Badoer struggled in the slippery conditions and took out Jacques Villeneuve as he was being lapped by the Williams. He was fined $5000 and received a two-race suspended ban.


Deal with Shannon Racing

After the Monaco GP, there were rumours that Forti would not survive the season without some form of takeover. In the period before the next race, the Spanish GP, Belco Avia boss Arron Colombo announced that a deal had been reached between Guido Forti and an entity known as Shannon Racing for the latter to buy a 51% share of the team.[2] The deal was concluded later in the month, on June 30.[35] Shannon Racing and its parent company FinFirst were Irish-registered sections of a Milanese financial group, and had already established teams in various Formula Three championships and in International Formula 3000 in 1996. The group was keen to move into Formula One, and Forti provided an opportunity for this to happen. It was believed that Colombo had organised the deal, which was scheduled to continue throughout 1996 with an option for 1997, because Belco Avia was owed money by Forti. As part of the management change, Cesare Fiorio left the team to join Ligier and was replaced by Daniele Coronna, whilst designer George Ryton joined from Ferrari.[33]
For the Spanish GP, the cars therefore appeared in a new green-and-white livery, apparently confirming Shannon Racing's acquisition of 51% of Forti.[29] This financial boost appeared to ensure the team's survival.[35] With the off-track confusion, both drivers again failed to qualify. Nevertheless, at the Canadian and French Grands Prix, both Fortis made it to the grid, Badoer even outqualifying Rosset in Montréal. However, Forti had lost its good 1995 reliability record, as these starts only resulted in four retirements. By this time, Forti's financial problems, caused by a conflict of team ownership between Guido Forti and Shannon Racing, were becoming increasingly urgent in nature. Both cars retired with "engine problems" at the French GP, although it was widely rumoured that this was due to the team running out of engine mileage as it went into debt with engine suppliers Cosworth.



Bankruptcy and withdrawal

Guido Forti alleged that Shannon Racing had not paid him any money within the stipulated six-day deadline after the deal was concluded and refuted the claim that it now owned 51% of his team.[35] As the team ran out of money, it was doubtful whether it would turn up at the British GP.[36] In the end, Forti took part, only for the cars to complete a mere handful of laps each in practice and thus failing to set a time quick enough to qualify. This was because it was becoming increasingly in debt to Cosworth and was running out of engine mileage for its cars, only having enough to make a token effort at participation.[29][37] The team made it to the next race - the German GP - but both cars remained unassembled in the pit garages throughout the weekend after the engine supply was finally cut off.[29]
Guido Forti, after discussing the matter with commercial rights-owner Bernie Ecclestone, had decided to withdraw the team from the German GP as negotiations over the team's ownership between himself and Shannon continued, despite the threat of the FIA (F1's governing body) imposing a fine on the outfit for missing the race. Following the failure of these negotiations, he then announced that Shannon's deal had fallen through and that he was back in charge of the team. He hoped to finalise some more sponsorship deals which would allow Forti to compete in the Hungarian GP. Shannon responded by claiming it still owned 51% of the team, and that it intended to solve Forti's financial problems itself, in addition to replacing Guido Forti as Team Principal. He duly took the company to court over the matter, an arduous process in the Italian legal system.[35]
With the team in limbo whilst the ownership dispute was judged, Forti's situation was bleak. The team faced the prospect of further heavy FIA-imposed fines for missing races if the situation did not improve,[29] or even exclusion from the championship for bringing the sport into disrepute, as had happened to the Andrea Moda team in 1992.[35] Forti withdrew his team from the sport; it did not make an appearance at the Hungarian GP, the Belgian GP,[38] nor at any further point in the championship. Badoer and Montermini were left without drives, and the promising FG03 chassis would no longer race. By the time Shannon Racing won the court case in September, Forti had ceased to exist.[39] Shannon Racing's teams in the lower motorsport categories also closed down. Coincidentally, Guido Forti had signed the 1997 Concorde Agreement shortly before his team's demise, which could have given his team a chance of surviving if it had made it into that year due to the extra television revenue that was duly granted to each of the teams under the terms of the agreement



Legacy

Forti's withdrawal marked not only the end of its participation in Formula One, but also terminated a team which had enjoyed success in International Formula 3000 and other minor categories. It is generally agreed that Forti may have succeeded if it had its 1995 budget and the FG03 car at the same time, and that Diniz's departure meant that it stood little chance of survival,[11] but the team has become another example of a small, backmarking team unable to finance its aspirations;[29] one of the final "privateer" teams to enter the sport in an era of increasing influence and participation from the large car manufacturers.[11] Forti is often cited along with Pacific and Simtek as prime examples of this tendency.[11] It was also argued that the increasing amount of money involved in financing an F1 team which was forcing many of the smaller teams to withdraw in the early to mid-1990s was a long-term threat to the future of the sport.[40] Alternatively, some saw Forti and similar tail-enders as undeserving of a place in F1, and it has been suggested that the imposition of the 107% rule by the FIA in 1996 was a move to force them to raise their game or leave the sport altogether.[41]
However, the Forti F1 cars have since been used for other purposes. Examples of the FG03 are currently being used as part of F1-themed track days in the United Kingdom at motor racing circuits such as Rockingham.

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Re: Forti Corse

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:23 pm

Forti slowly becomes a force in lower categories

With F1 now being dominated by manufacturers, Forti Corse may well go down in Grand Prix history as the last team to have attempted to enter the sport without substantial corporate or manufacturer support when they joined the paddock in 1995. Consider the genuinely new teams that followed: Stewart had at the very least moral support from Ford; Lola, though an unmitigated disaster, was a works race-car company; BAR had the might of British American Tobacco and Reynard; and Jaguar and Toyota were out-and-out manufacturer entries, plus Jaguar was really Stewart with a new name. Forti were part of a mid-90s tail-end trio that also included Simtek and Pacific. By nature, all three teams belonged to the late-80s privateer era; by the time they entered, there was precious little breathing space left for the genuine garagiste. To prove the point, Simtek and Pacific entered in 1994, a year before Forti joined the fray, but come mid-1996 all three had disappeared into the ether. All of them found themselves trapped in a vicious cycle which eventually consumed them, with not enough money, poor cars and pay drivers, and failed organisational gambles.

But for Forti, on paper the story could have been oh-so-different. Guido Forti had formed his team in the late 1970s with Paolo Guerci, and initially had run Teo Fabi in Italian Formula Ford and Italian and European F3. Oscar Larrauri competed for them in South American F3 in 1979 before the team decided to concentrate on Italian F3 in the early 1980s, taking Franco Forini to the title in 1985. After unsuccessfully fielding Giorgio Montaldo and Nicola Marazzi in 1986, Forti then won three straight Italian F3 titles from 1987-89 with Enrico Bertaggia, Emanuele Naspetti and Gianni Morbidelli. In 1987, Forti moved up to F3000 for the first time, participating in half the events with Nicola Larini and Nicola Tesini. The team then ran Bertaggia in 1988, followed by Claudio Langes in 1989 and Morbidelli in 1990, with Gianni taking Forti's first F3000 win. Naspetti then drove for Forti in 1991 along with Fabrizio Giovanardi and took three wins in the process, and then clocked up another victory in 1992 before moving to F1. Andrea Montermini took over Naspetti's car, claimed another win at Spa, and by now Forti was a genuine force in the F3000 championship.

The funds are assured, and the design team assembled

In 1993, Olivier Beretta joined the team and eventually proved to be a championship contender, but in the other car Forti had signed Pedro Diniz, the wealthy Brazilian bringing with him a seemingly endless supply of cash. As a result of the Diniz connection, Forti met Carlo Gancia, who bought out Guerci's shares in the team and started putting the pieces in place for an F1 effort. Forti then ran Diniz and Hideki Noda for one last season of F3000 in 1994, but by the start of 1995 the team, based in Alessandria in Italy, was ready to step up to the top flight. With money problems having already devoured Lotus and Larrousse, and Simtek and Pacific already staring down the barrel, Forti and Gancia wisely ensured the immediate financial position of the new team thanks to sponsorship from Parmalat, Sadia and other Brazilian companies, underwritten by the Diniz family. In addition, Tom Prankerd tells us that along with the deal to run customer Ford ED V8 engines came some sponsorship from Ford Brazil, so the team entered their first year in F1 with a relatively healthy budget of around 7.5 million pounds.

Having got the financial part right, the next step was to obtain two drivers and build a decent car. Diniz was obviously a shoo-in, but from a pool of candidates including Christian Fittipaldi, Mauricio Gugelmin and Gil de Ferran, the team settled on veteran Roberto Moreno for the second car. Former Fondmetal designer Sergio Rinland was commissioned to design the FG01-95 assisted by former Osella man Giorgio Stirano, with composite work done by Belco Avia and aerodynamics by Hans Fouche, formerly of Brabham, using the Aerotek wind-tunnel in Pretoria, South Africa. Rinland's last F1 design had been the Fondmetal GR02 which had been a decent machine back in 1992, allowing Gabriele Tarquini to out-qualify Ivan Capelli's Ferrari at Spa. Before the season began though, there were dark mutterings that the FG01-95 would be no more than a rehash of the GR02. The similar nosecone designs of the two cars added weight to the rumours. At any rate, it was quickly apparent that the FG01 was no world-beater. Featuring the only manual gearshift in pit lane working a thoroughly troublesome gearbox, the car was seriously overweight and aerodynamically inefficient.

The Fortis become (slowly) moving roadblocks

This meant that the yellow and blue cars, with their stylish fluoro green wheels to demonstrate the Brazilian flavour of this Italian team, were sluggish mobile chicanes right from the outset. Miles off the pace of even the Pacifics, improvements were agonisingly slow in coming, the noticeable changes being the addition of an airbox (the FG01 started without one) and a shark nose mid-season, around the time when Rinland left. However, attempts to fit a semi-automatic gearbox towards the end of the season got bogged down in torrid unreliability, and the plan was finally scrapped altogether. But just how slow the FG01s were in the beginning at times beggared belief. In Brazil, Diniz qualified 25th out of 26, just under 8 seconds of Damon Hill's pole, with Moreno 23rd. Although hoping for a good showing in front of their main sponsors, Moreno spun out and Diniz finished 10th and last, but a whole 7 laps down. Matters got worse in Argentina, where in the wet qualifying sessions Moreno ended up over 11 seconds off David Coulthard's pole in 24th, and Diniz a further two seconds back in 25th. Diniz then finished ahead of Moreno in the race, but both were a massive 9 laps down.

Neither of them were classified and, more to the point, they were four laps even behind Domenico Schiattarella, the last classified finisher. It was a similar story at Imola, where the Fortis were on the last row over 9 seconds off Michael Schumacher's pole, struggling home in 15th and 16th places, 7 laps adrift, and three laps behind Luca Badoer's Minardi in 14th. This was followed by a double-retirement in Spain, Pedro suffering a gearbox failure and Roberto a water pump problem, and in Monaco Diniz finished 10th and 6 laps down from 22nd whilst Moreno crashed out after 9 laps from 24th on the grid. By Canada Simtek had collapsed, so there were only 24 runners left in the field. There the Fortis filled the back row before Diniz encountered more gearbox troubles in the race, and his team-mate retired with a blocked fuel line. France saw Diniz clobbered and taken out by Pierluigi Martini's Minardi as the Italian recovered from a spin on the opening lap, while Moreno dawdled home 16th, 6 laps down, but in a familiar tale was three laps behind Mika Salo's Tyrrell in 15th. Seven races down, and though the FG01 was relatively reliable, at no stage had it been even remotely competitive.

Diniz passes the McLarens at the Nurburgring!

At Silverstone a Forti qualified in the top 20 for the first time when Diniz started 20th despite being 8 seconds off the pace, courtesy of Salo and Montermini in the Pacific failing to record proper laps. He eventually retired with gear selection problems while Moreno suffered a hydraulic press failure. But in truth, some improvement had been made, and the fact that Pacific were running pay-drivers Giovanni Lavaggi and Jean-Denis Deletraz for parts of the second half of the year meant that the Fortis were not always consigned to the last row. That was the case in Germany where Diniz and Moreno started on the eleventh row, but at both Hockenheim and the Hungaroring the Brazilian duo scored double DNFs, both having had more gearbox problems, plus also driveshaft and engine failures to boot. Spa saw a return to their reliable ways, Diniz finishing 13th from last (having been 15.1s off Gerhard Berger's pole time), and Moreno 14th from 22nd, both two laps down. However Monza proved to be a disaster at Forti's home race. From 22nd and 23rd on the grid, Moreno ahead, the team hoped for a decent finish in what was usually a race of attrition.

But in a chaotic first start, pole-sitter David Coulthard had already crashed on the warm-up lap at the Variante Ascari. Then on the first lap, at the same place, both Fortis were involved in a multi-car pile-up with Montermini, Jean-Christophe Boullion and Massimiliano Papis. With only one spare car, normally it would have been given to the driver who was ahead on the grid. But money talks, and since Diniz was effectively the team's paymaster, Moreno was forced to sit out despite having been 1.2s faster, and watch Pedro finish 9th, three laps down, two behind even Taki Inoue's Footwork. At Estoril, the pair came 16th and 17th, Moreno having been stuck in first gear in the final laps. The veteran had more gearbox woes at the Nurburgring having started from the pits two laps after everyone else due to a flat battery. But Diniz's race proved eventful. Having passed the McLarens struggling on slicks in the wet, he eventually came under pressure from Mika Hakkinen, letting the Finn pass when he straight-lined the chicane. He was later hit by Heinz-Harald Frentzen and went off again when lapped by Hakkinen, before finishing 13th, ahead of Gabriele Tarquini and the mediocre Deletraz.

Forti glory in Australia: one engine away from a point

By this stage, with only three fly-away races remaining at Aida, Suzuka and Adelaide, Forti tried to replace Moreno with Hideki Noda, who had already driven for Larrousse in late-1994, and whose contract with Simtek for the second half of 1995 had fallen through when that team folded. But the deal could not be concluded in time, and Moreno was confirmed as still driving whilst in transit in Hong Kong on the Thursday before the race. The Fortis then proceeded to out-qualify the Pacifics again, and like in Portugal came 16th and 17th, although this time Moreno was ahead. Suzuka was a different story though, with Diniz spinning out and Moreno also flying off the track spectacularly when his gearbox seized at the start of the second lap. Little did the team know that they would come agonisingly close to scoring a World Championship point in the last race in Australia. There Diniz qualified 21st, only 5.4s off Coulthard's pole, while Moreno was one spot ahead. More importantly, with the 107% qualifying rule to be introduced in 1996 in the wake of Forti and Pacific's horrendously slow pace in 1995, Moreno's lap was Forti's only time within 107% of pole all season.

Come race day, Moreno followed Coulthard's example by losing control on the entry to the pits, but instead of head-butting the pit wall as the Williams did, the Brazilian spun and broke his rear wing and rear suspension. Meanwhile Diniz soldiered on as car after car fell out around him, and towards the end found himself 7th behind Hill, Olivier Panis' Ligier, Morbidelli in the Arrows, Mark Blundell's McLaren, Salo and Pedro Lamy in the Minardi. But with a handful of laps left, Panis' engine began smoking, and Forti was on the verge of its first point - but it was not to be, as the Ligier sadly held on to make the finish. For a team that had begun the season with a good designer and a solid budget, it had been a dismal year, the FG01 having simply been too cumbersome and slow. Of the 16 drivers that participated in every GP, Coulthard had the fastest average qualifying time. Inoue was 13th, 5.65s slower on average. Moreno was next, but 7.257s adrift, and Diniz was 16th, some 7.703s behind. Week in, week out, the Fortis had simply been light years off the pace. And though reliability was OK, Diniz only completed 60.45% of the total race distance, and Moreno 57.75%, so there was still much work to do for 1996.

Diniz off to Ligier, causing Forti to flip out (literally)

But Forti then suffered what would be a fatal blow when Diniz took himself and his money off to greener pastures at Ligier. Moreno also departed, and in their place the team brought in Badoer and Montermini, with Franck Lagorce as test driver, although with such a tight budget there was little work for the Frenchman to do. Beyond F3000, Montermini had already driven for the team once, when he, Giovanni Lavaggi and Vittorio Zoboli piloted the yellow F1 cars in the Bologna motor show match-races at the end of 1995, although all three were soundly thrashed by their rivals, the three Minardis. In other changes, ex-Ferrari man Cesare Fiorio was appointed team manager, bringing invaluable experience and expertise. The cars were also to be powered by Ford Zetec-R V8s rather than the outdated Ford EDs. Former Fondmetal and Brabham designer Chris Radage had started work on the new FG03, but eventually it was Riccardo de Marco who finished it, this being de Marco's first ever racing car design. But the new car was not ready for the start of the season, so initially the team had to make do with the FG01, and hope that the Zetec-R engine would propel it to within 107% of the pole time.

So the old cars went to Australia for the season opener with no major sponsor, but there was some backing from Replay, Roces, TAT and ITS. The team held hopes of making the grid, but neither driver were fast enough, Montermini hampered by engine failures, and Badoer getting to within 0.4s of the 107% mark but still some 3 seconds behind Diniz's Ligier, which was last on the grid. Things went better in Brazil, as the team obtained Hudson sponsorship for the South American races, and as Badoer and Montermini qualified 19th and 20th after Diniz and Tarso Marques had their times disallowed. Montermini spun off in the race, but Badoer came home 11th, four laps down. Then in Argentina, both cars once again made the grid, with Badoer only 4.5s adrift of pole. Luca was flipped upside down by Diniz, which lead to some nervous moments as the marshals seemed not to know how to act, until Badoer emerged unscathed. Montermini made the finish in 10th, only 3 laps down, which compared well against the corresponding race in 1995, when both yellow cars were 9 laps behind. Upon returning to Europe, there was another double-DNQ at the Nurburgring, but Montermini blamed Damon Hill's extremely fast pole time for dragging down the 107% mark for missing out by just 0.6s.

The FG03 to herald a new era in Forti competitiveness?

And besides, by this stage all the team's attention was focussed on the new FG03, which was actually unveiled to the press at the Nurburgring. Montermini described the car as a "completely different world", and de Marco hoped that it would allow the team to at least battle the Minardis. Lighter, lower and more compact than the bulky FG01, it featured a distinctly thin and high raised nose, such that the nosecone, rather than sloping, was actually parallel to the ground. In addition, a narrow airbox improved airflow to the rear wing and allowed the cockpit head padding to be lower, providing and aero advantage. Badoer got first use of the FG03 at the next round at Imola, and lapped 3.5s faster than Montermini in the old car. Andrea also briefly tried to qualify the new machine, but was 1.6s slower than Luca and 0.6s away from the 107%. Badoer's time, however, was just 0.7s behind the next slowest qualifier, Ricardo Rosset in the Arrows, and in the race the Italian lapped within 0.3s of Rosset. Although he had some gearbox troubles, he finished a creditable 10th. With much better downforce and handling, Badoer described the car as "very agile", whilst Fiorio said the FG03 had seemed to be "born in the right way".

By Monaco there was an FG03 for each driver, and both comfortably qualified on the back row. But on race day, when rain fell heavily and a wet acclimatisation session was called, Montermini crashed coming out of the tunnel and missed the start. Badoer meanwhile made a nuisance of himself, taking out Jacques Villeneuve when the Canadian tried to lap him, incurring a fine and a suspended ban for his misdemeanour. Yet behind the scenes moves were afoot, which on first glance seemed sure to help take Forti further up the grid. Firstly, personnel changes were in the air. George Ryton was soon to become technical director, which was another step in the right direction, but Gancia on the other hand seemed to be losing interest in F1 and keen instead to start an IRL team. Secondly, the team itself was subject to a takeover bid. A mysterious lot called the Shannon organisation, believed to be an Irish-registered part of a Milanese finance group, had established teams in three separate F3 championships throughout Europe in 1996, as well as a team in International F3000 running Tom Kristensen.

Shannon enters the fray, bringing new livery but no cash!

Now, Shannon was keen to make the jump into F1, with 1998 being bandied around as a possible entry date, but events happened rapidly between the Monaco and the Spanish GPs. Shannon made a bid to purchase shares in Forti, a deal was made, and it was announced by Arron Colombo. Colombo was the boss of Belco Avia, the company that had done the composite work on the Forti cars. Rumours suggested that Colombo had brokered the deal because he was being owed money by Forti and Gancia. At any rate, the Fortis turned up in Spain in Shannon's attractive red, white and green livery. Considering all the backroom upheaval, perhaps it was no surprise that the cars didn't qualify in Barcelona, but in Canada, with extra sponsorship from Sokol, both made the grid, Badoer actually in front of Rosset by almost 0.2s. Neither car saw the finish line, Montermini retiring with loose ballast and Badoer suffering more gearbox problems. Yet by the time the championship reached Magny-Cours, the Shannon deal was starting to unravel. Shannon announced that it owned 51% of the team, but Forti refuted that claim by saying that Shannon had not paid any money.

And that was actually becoming a critical issue. Forti was accumulating massive debts to Cosworth, and without Shannon's payments was unable to pay them. As such, even though both cars qualified in France, they were withdrawn during the race because they had used up their engine mileage. Seeing a sinking ship, Fiorio left and was replaced by Daniele Coronna, but to little avail. At Silverstone, Cosworth refused to give the team new engines, so the team filled up both cars with enough fuel to use up the remaining mileage on the last two engines, and sent Badoer and Montermini out in qualifying. Both cars stopped out on the track after two laps, and naturally did not qualify. Guido Forti had had enough and went to an Italian court to wrest control of the team away from the Shannon group. Regardless, although the team went to Germany, both cars never left the pits, with no money and therefore no engines. And so the team folded, as did Shannon's other operations. As a result, eventually in September when the court ruled the ownership dispute in Shannon's favour, it was no more than a pyrrhic victory, because there was no team left to run anyway.

The end of a what-might-have-been story

It proved a most inglorious and messy end for Forti's team, which had existed for almost two decades in various categories, and which organisationally may well have had what it took to succeed in Grand Prix racing. Only trouble was, by the time it entered the top league, the sport was moving away from private teams and towards big-money manufacturer or corporate-driven teams. Plus the irony was that, in 1995, when the team had the funds, it happened to have an appalling car, but in 1996, when the FG03 seemed a decent enough machine, the team simply ran out of cash. But that was not the end of the Forti Grand Prix machines. Four years after they had raced in F1, in January 2000 at the Autosport International show in Birmingham, the Aintree Racing Drivers' School announced a unique 'F1 Driving Experience' program, where a group of people could sample a saloon car, a Formula Ford, an F3 machine and an F1 racer all in one day. And, amazingly, the cars wheeled out by the ARDS were two Fortis - one leftover FG01 and one of the FG03s. So, for the moment at least, the legacy of the Forti Formula One team hasn't totally disappeared just yet.

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