The Lost Series: A1GP World Cup of Motorsport: Part 5: 'Gentlemen, for the pride of your nation, turn off your engines'

Published on 15 Dec 2018 20:57

It has been almost fifteen years since Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Moktoum Al Maktoum announced his plans for a new worldwide racing class. The idea, the A1 Grand Prix 'World Cup of Motorsport' which was announced at a press conference in Dubai. Today, we have the final part of our series: the end of A1GP.

Initially, Tony Texeira was optimistic about the survival of the series. On 25th September 2009, more than a month before the first scheduled race of the 2009-2010 season at Surfers Paradise, Texeira announced that his organisation could have guaranteed the survival of the series: "I was planning to announce the financing a while ago, but I had to wait until the full package was clear, I wanted a deal for at least three to five years because our organization is independent."

The deal that consisted of a partnership with IMG Sports Media would guarantee the future of the series. Texeira also came back to the bankruptcy of A1 Operation Limited: "I have to go to the table with the creditors to solve everything administratively, I want to thank them for the patience and trust they have given me. With A1GP we have We are fortunate to have loyalty from all our stakeholders, promoters, team owners and holders of TV rights, and the most important thing is the fans, for them we do all of this. "

Nevertheless, doubts about the future remained. In addition to the persistent speculation about high bills and problems with finances, sources now reported that Ferrari was refraining from supplying engines for the following season. A spokesman for the Italian brand did not want to comment. A test was scheduled on 17th October, with the new season set to start on 25th October. It was yet to be seen whether the organization could find a new engine supplier in case Ferrari decided to pull the plug.

Meanwhile, A1GP came up with a new calendar. Zandvoort would be replaced by Assen and Surfers Paradise would host the opening round of the season. But four days after Texeira's comments concerning the future of the series, the race was cancelled at Surfers Paradise. China and Malaysia also withdrew from the calendar. That meant that the series would no longer run in 2009. The focus was on the year 2010. On January 18th, 2010, the 'A1GP' case came to trial in London. Here it was stipulated that the series was in the hands of A1 Grand Prix Operations, the company that had previously filed for bankruptcy. Tim Bramston was appointed as administrator, and he did not enclose the entire contents of the championship to sell back to Texeira. RAB Capital withdrew from its project and decided to sell the entire contents in March 2010.

Jos Verstappen had already given his opinion in a column in the Telegraaf about the project: "Where it always gives performance in  Formula 1, it is remarkably quiet at the A1 Grand Prix, I would almost say dead silence after the first three races of the new season had to be cancelled, I think the A1 Grand Prix is dead, and I expect the end of the A1 Grand Prix to be soon. In the first year when I raced for Team Netherlands, the payments were already laborious and in fact, it remained so. It was a big mistake in my eyes to join forces with Ferrari, the project was much too expensive, the running costs are running out. I think that the A1 Grand Prix has persisted for a long time. It's a  pity that it has run like this, because in itself the series with country teams was something. In our country, the A1 Grand Prix was very popular with the orange car of Team Netherlands. It appealed to the people.  The damage caused by failing to comply with agreements with circuits is too great to take the A1 Grand Prix and its organization seriously. "

On February 18, 2010, the court in The Hague declared the A1 Grand Prix Nederland bankrupt. Team boss Jan Lammers tried to save the team, but now that the A1 Grand Prix championship was dying, he stopped his efforts. Lammers stated in the magazine Quote: "You do not find any crying people here, if someone dies unexpectedly, that's a blow, but if someone has been ill for a long time, you're just glad that he's getting rid of his suffering. If you have a Tour de France team and the Tour does not go through, you can go cycling through France on your own, but that does not make sense commercially, there are some unpaid bills left, but those are mainly from people who have been able to earn us for years."

A month later, the A1GP estate was put on sale. Twenty of the A1GP Powered by Ferrari cars were put up for sale alongside twelve of the Lola-Zyteks series from the first three seasons. Besides the racing cars, the Ferrari and Maserati Safety-Car and Medical Car are also put on sale.

Rumours kept stirring and Autosport Magazine learned from a reliable source that the series could soon start again from 2011. A competition called the A10-World Series could continue on the foundations of the old championship. In the end, this project was not a reality. A1GP was bankrupt and curators were looking for buyers. ISRA (International Sport Racing Association) bought the 2005-2008 Lola Zytek models and made their own series. Formula Acceleration 1 was part of Acceleration 2014, a championship that eventually was won by Nigel Melker. On 28th May 2015, it became known that a South African group of investors named AFRIX Motorsport had bought all 21 A1GP 'Powered by Ferrari' cars. The company planned a championship in South Africa that aimed to start in 2016-2017. Their goal was to lure young European drivers to South Africa to race in the winter months. All 21 cars would have already been shipped and maintained in the workshop of AFRIX in Johannesburg and race prepared. AFRIX was also the company behind the plans of the A2GP series. According to rumours, AFRIX had paid 1.5 million dollars for the 21 cars, engines and parts. The latest news item on the AFRIX Motorsport site dates from 19th October 2016. A trailer for the AFRIX New Exciting Motor Racing Series was online on February 23th, 2016, but since then nothing has been heard from AFRIX Motorsport. That is how a project that was set up in 2003 by Sheikh Maktoum ended without any gloss, without glory and especially without news.

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