When Takuma Sato spilled the beans on a new Honda-backed team set to make its debut in 2006, nobody believed it would happen. Even BAR-Honda boss Nick Fry seemed a little surprised by the whole thing and most paddock insiders thought it would simply be too much to create a new team from scratch in the six months between early October and early March. But against all odds, Super Aguri are getting close to doing just that.
The last fully new team to enter the sport was Toyota, back in 2002, and they did so with the mighty financial backing of a motoring giant and a full season of testing behind them. Super Aguri, in contrast, have bought up some old cars designed by a now-bankrupt team and although they may have secured sponsorship and an engine from Honda, their plans are far from tried and tested as the new season races ever faster towards them.
Their attempts to get on the grid have already stalled twice, first when it was confirmed by the FIA that they would not be able to buy second-hand BAR chassis to run and secondly when they failed to come up with the $48 million (USD) bond in time to make the official 2006 Formula One entry list. But a surprising collaboration between the ten teams currently on the grid to vote through Aguri's entry, their debut now seems virtually guaranteed.
Led by former Formula One racer Aguri Suzuki, the team now faces a race against time to avoid embarrassment in Bahrain in a little more than seven weeks' time. But Paul Stoddart - the man who sold them the ex-Arrows chassis he bought when the receivers were selling off everything involved with the sunken outfit and the man who turned around Minardi in six weeks to get them on the grid after buying the team in 2001 - is confident it can be done.