Malaysian Minardi In The Making ? MALAYSIAN carmaker Proton plans to enter the world's biggest racing scene by going into a joint partnership with Italy-based Formula One stable Minardi. In an exclusive interview with The Malay Mail,...
Malaysian Minardi In The Making ?
MALAYSIAN carmaker Proton plans to enter the world's biggest racing scene by going into a joint partnership with Italy-based Formula One stable Minardi.
In an exclusive interview with The Malay Mail, Australian Paul Stoddart, the principal owner of Minardi, revealed that the two parties are keen to jointly develop an engine for Formula One.
If this ambitious project takes off it will most certainly give the Malaysian motorsports industry a huge boost.
"I had the opportunity to visit the Proton plant on Thursday and I was impressed with what I saw," Stoddart said yesterday.
"I am looking at the possibility of working together with a Malaysian company to develop an engine for Formula One, or, more specifically, for Minardi.
"There's so much this country can offer Formula One and I am truly amazed at the potential available here.
"Right from having what can be considered as the best F1 circuit in the world, Malaysia offers tremendous potential in the development of motorsports," said Stoddart, who is thinking of getting Asiatech, their present engine supplier to work together with Proton.
Asiatech, a consortium that bought the Peugeot engine department when the French automotive giant left the sport last year, will supply engines to European Minardi in 2002, and possibly for 2003.
Asked why Minardi, who has signed Malaysia's Alex Yoong as their driver, did not approach Petronas, Stoddart said: "Petronas are involved with Peter Sauber and I respect that arrangement. I believe that Petronas have a contract with Sauber and would want to honour that." He said that while discussions on the development of an F1 engine with a Malaysian company were still in the initial stages, the plans for a title sponsor from Malaysia looks set to become a reality.
"I have held talks with Magnum and it has reached a stage where a decision looks possible within the next few weeks.
"And if everything works out fine, the European Minardi may well be known as Malaysian Minardi or Magnum Minardi next season.
"By giving Alex an opportunity to drive in Formula One, I would say that Magnum has taken the first step towards promoting the sport in a big way in the country." Stoddart said that Alex has a provisional super licence and will compete in the next three races, starting with the Italian GP in Monza on Sept 16.
"It would have been difficult for him to race starting next year as the Malaysian GP would have been his second race. That would put tremendous strain on him.
"I always believe that it is vital for a driver to have enough races under his belt. The testing during the winter break will help boost Alex's confidence tremendously," said Stoddart.
He added that there should not be any resentment as Alex has proven his worth.
"I know that many have said that Alex has paid to drive rather then be paid to drive.
"Bringing in sponsorship is normal. Just look at Jenson Button. He brought in sponsorship for the Williams team last season.
"I would like to clarify one thing, none of the money comes from the Malaysian government.
"The Sports Minister has been of tremendous help to both Alex and Minardi and for that we are thankful."