Wed, May 07, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Japan's Super Aguri calls it quits over money woes


Super Aguri, the first all-Japanese Formula One team, called it quits yesterday owing to financial problems, with founder Aguri Suzuki saying he would never return to the “piranha’s” sport.

“I have been very happy that I was able to achieve a miracle and become a team owner, but I have to make the difficult decision to withdraw,” Suzuki told a news conference. “The team will be ceasing its racing activities as of today.”

The disappearance of Super Aguri means that Formula One is down to 10 teams, with the grid originally supposed to have 12 at the start of the season before the collapse of Prodrive’s entry.

Super Aguri was founded as the first all-Japanese team in the Western-dominated sport, achieving a long-held ambition of the 47-year-old racing veteran Suzuki.

But the team struggled after their 2006 debut and suffered a major blow last month when Britain’s Magma Group backed out of plans to acquire them.

“If someone gave me ¥100 billion [US$1 billion], then I’d like to keep competing for three years. But real life isn’t so easy. It’s a piranha’s club and I don’t want to put my finger in again. I just wanted to race,” he said.

Suzuki was the first Asian on a F1 podium when he finished third at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix.

“I’d like to thank God for giving me so many chances to do what I wanted to do, but if someone wants to take part in F1, I’m going to advise him that he better not,” Suzuki said.

Asked if his team, based in Leafield, England, could return to F1 with a new partner, Suzuki said flat-out: “No.”

“According to the rules, you can skip three races in a season, but I have no intention to return,” he said.

Honda Motor Co, which supplies engines and other technical support to Super Aguri, reportedly provided an emergency financial injection to help them through the Spanish Grand Prix on April 27.

But Super Aguri were shut out of the latest round at Istanbul amid reports that Honda does not want the team to be a drain on its own racing unit.

“With the help of Honda, we have somehow managed to keep the team going, but we find it difficult to establish a way to continue the activities in the future within the environment surrounding F1,” Suzuki said.

Suzuki denounced Magma for dropping its support just before the Spanish Grand Prix.

“We had been negotiating with only Magma for two months, ending talks with any other potential partners,” Suzuki said.

“But we couldn’t do anything in the only one week before the Turkish Grand Prix,” he said.

In their debut year the team, featuring former Honda driver and Japanese F1 icon Takuma Sato, scored no points. Last year, Super Aguri notched four points to finish second-last in the constructors standings.

They have failed to put any points on the board after four races this season, with drivers Sato and Anthony Davidson of Britain both failing to finish in the opening race in Australia.

Their best result was Sato’s 13th place in Barcelona, where Davidson retired.

Super Aguri initially had all-Japanese constructors, engine and tyre suppliers, as well as Japanese drivers in Sato and Yuki Ide.

But Ide was stripped of his F1 license after four races — partly because he was too slow — and was replaced by Frenchman Franck Montagny.

Suzuki yesterday thanked his team, the drivers and the fans.

“Anthony Davidson ... has always pushed to the limit despite the very difficult conditions. Takuma Sato, who has been with us from the very start, has always fought hard and led the team,” Suzuki said.

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