Minardi Faces Possible Bankruptcy

The Minardi team is probably facing this year one of its hardest times since it entered Formula One back in 1985, and according to reports, the small Italian outfit could disappear if it's not able to find sufficient financial backing in the next few weeks.

Minardi Faces Possible Bankruptcy

The Minardi team is probably facing this year one of its hardest times since it entered Formula One back in 1985, and according to reports, the small Italian outfit could disappear if it's not able to find sufficient financial backing in the next few weeks.

Minardi, the team with the smallest budget in Formula One and whose cars usually fill the last positions in the grid, is struggling since its main sponsor, Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica, decided to quit the sport at the end of the season.

Gabrielle Rumi, who was the team's main shareholder, with a 70 percent stake, sold his shares to the Pan-American Sports Network (PSN) - a South American cable company - back in September, in the hope of guarantying the team's survival.

"This is a really sad moment but it's a matter of giving a future to the team and a powerful partner is required", said Rumi two months ago. "I have done everything for Minardi, but Formula One now requires massive investments that only major industrial groups can provide."

However, after Telefonica's decision to pull the plug on Minardi, PSN seemed to have backtracked on its intention, a decision that may have been affected by the difficulties the team is going through to find an engine deal for 2001.

After Ford's announcement that they would not supply customer engines anymore, Minardi hoped to sign a deal with Mugen for next season, but the Japanese company's retirement from Formula One left Minardi with very few options.

One of them was part of Mauro Forghieri's rescue plan to save the team, and included a deal with Mugen-Honda. Forghieri, who was Ferrari's Technical Director during the team's golden years back in the Seventies, wants his company, Oral Engineering, to worked together with Mugen in order to be able to supply the engine to Minardi.

"We could use the Mugen-Honda engine," said Forghieri this week. "And we could do a good job with it, because of our close contacts with Magneti Marelli. About 80% of the potential of a modern Formula One engine is in the electronic control. If the management is right, then the engine will be strong.

"But I won't be more optimistic for the moment. There are things to be discussed. We have to look at the budget, the programme and the time. Time is the most important thing of all."

The Faenza-based team is also desperately trying to come to an agreement with Supertec, which now seems to be the last option, though it would require a $20 million investment, an amount that seems to be out of the team's reach at the moment.

With only two weeks to go before the winter testing begins, Minardi is now facing a race against time.

"Minardi is not yet dead but it is certainly not in the best of health," Rumi confessed this week. "All that I can say is that PSN did not respect its commitments.

"I'm now trying to guarantee a future for the team and I hope to be able to announce some positive developments next week."

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