Updated: GP2 Jerez Test- Driver lineup

Keeping this post open for the comments…. See full confirmed Jerez list in post above.  Thanks to all for your inputs!  We’ll do it all over again in a month for the Paul Ricard GP2 Main test.  At the end, apparently no Durango.


Adam Carroll at DPR? Why not!

Italiaracing reports today that Autosprint magazine places Adam Carroll at DPR for the Istambul race.

I have written about this talented Irish driver in another post, and it would be a great move by André Herck to place Adam in his second race car.  Given that Giacomo Ricci, apart from bringing in no money,  has produced zero results for the team, bringing in an experienced GP2 race-winner like Carroll is a great bet.  If you’re going to incur a loss, might as well do it with drivers that can put your car in the top 10.

If Herck’s gamble pays off well, it could convince drivers such as James Jakes that the team is competent and that in the hands of a strong driver can be competitive.  If it doesn’t, they’re just back where they started.  Good move from Herck, since it’s not easy to find drivers of this caliber available and willing to go on a race-by-race deal.

GP2 Main grid complete… for now

With 3 days to the season opener at Montmelo, we now know who will fill the 3 empty seats in GP2.   According to Italiaracing, enternal fill-in Giacomo Ricci will be at DPR and Trident will field Davide Rigon and Ricardo Teixeira.

Clearly, at least one seat in each of these 2 teams is a non-paying drive.  Both Ricci and Rigon have been filling in for these teams for the past several months, and both Herck (DPR) and Salvadori (Trident) prefer to field a money-losing car than risk the economic fine and the likely wrath of Bruno Michel. Read more of this post

David Price calls it quits

Last Thursday, Autosport reported that David Price sold his remaining 49% of DPR to André Herck (link).  My other solid source, Italiaracing, has not confirmed this, but I will trust it’s a valid story.

Several comments from my side regarding this sale.

First, David Price is not walking away with a fistful of cash from this second sale.   Much like what happened to BCN Competicion, these “sales” have many angles and readings – some political, some financial.

The sale of the initial 51% to Herck last year was for a reported €1.8 million, reasonable figure for a GP2 team in early 2008 – at that time valued between €3.5 and €4.0 million.   But this time, as owner of 49% of DPR, Price also “owned” 49% of its troubles, translated into losses and debt stemming from the consistent lack of results on the track and its inability to attract well-paying drivers.

Herck, who is also believed to be doubting his future (and his son’s) in GP2, must have told Price he could “sell” his remaining stake for the value of the growing team debt.  Summarizing, Price walks away with his initial cash and basically values the team at the €1.8 million which he sold for initially, a price tag that DPR would never fetch on the open market today.  He renounces on a higher value but also on the risk from its debt obligations.  The valuation from Herck’s side is different, as he paid the €1.8 million and is now assuming all the debt, which could easily be in excess of €500k.  At a minimum value of €2.3 million, Herck must seriously trust he can either straighten out the team or he can hold out long enough to sell it once prices have gone up again.  Another (unlikely) alternative is that he has a buyer for all or part of DPR.

Second, the departure of David Price from DPR sinks the team further in the “image” standings.  Already one of the worst teams in terms of results and reputation, the fact that now it remains in the hands of a wealthy Monaco businessman who bought it for his son, does not help the team in the eyes of drivers and their managers.  Herck is a smart man, and he will have to quickly fill in this gap with a top-tier technical “brand name” that can elevate his team’s reputation.  A good number of ex-F1 race engineers are out there today, and Herck will probably scoop one up soon, both to fill in for Price’s departure as well as technical chief Andy Miller who also left the team.

Surely, a team with an empty seat in today’s racing market and whose only racing pedigree is no longer there, is not looking too good for survival.  André Herck must now pull a wealthy rabbit out of his magician’s hat to sustain a reasonably stable 2009 GP2 Main season, especially when considering DPR’s “paying” driver is his son Michael.

One race DPR is surely contesting in the leading pack is of the first GP2 team to run into life-threatening financial difficulties.  DPR and Trident are now neck to neck in this sad contest.

GP2 insider prediction: When & which GP2 teams will run out of money in ’09

Based on the earlier calculations of team incomes according to the drivers they had been able to sign, I have made a chart to illustrate at what point of the 2009 season will GP2 teams run out of cash.  To better explain I have made a couple of assumptions:

1- that the necessary budget for break-even is €1.8 million – spent linearly at €180k per race by every team

2- the 3 empty seats (as of April 24 – 2 at Trident and 1 at DPR) are filled by paid drivers with budgets of €500k

gp2-team-cash Read more of this post

Montmeló preview: 3 seats left

At this second test we have 1 more seat officially filled.  Nelson Panciatici has been confirmed according to Italiaracing by Durango.  He will now officially drive with this team after the test held 2 weeks ago at Paul Ricard.  I wonder about Panciatici’s budget, but drivers with at least a partial budget (€400-500k) now find themselves in a good bargaining position to sit in a GP2 car for the 2009 Main Series season.

This leaves only the 2 seats at Trident and 1 seat at DPR pending an official driver confirmation.  For the Montmeló test, DPR is showing up with James Jakes, a well-funded driver coming off a dismal F3 Euroseries season (13th place, 1 win) who is also contesting the GP2 Asia Series, but with Super Nova.

Meanwhile Trident will repeat with Davide Rigon, who will hopefully begin to perform in GP2, and incorporates Angolan driver Ricardo Teixeira, backed by national oil firm Sonangol.   Not sure what is going on behind the scenes at the Milanese team, but when Hamad Al Fardan seemed a sure bet, another emerging-market driver comes along.  No doubt Salvadori’s team is looking to make some income from the pre-seasontests, given the signing of a funded driver seems more remote every day.  My guess is a Teixeria-Al Fardan lineup would be a saviour for Trident, though just in the short-term since it would condemn them to the bottom of the team standings and significantly lower their “status” in the category.  2009 will be a long season for Trident and its already shaky finances.

Teams (part III): the GP2 backmarkers

After the GP2 Stars and the Survivors, come the 5 other teams that in my estimation will be hard-pressed to finish the 2009 season without incurring serious financial troubles.  Apart from the hemorrhage the GP2 Asia Series is causing (to be addressed in a separate future post), these 5 teams are consistently at the bottom and fighting for the budgets (usually partial) of midfield drivers and occasional newcomers with funding.

  • FMS/Coloni: Probably the most consistent team in GP2, though unfortunately consistently poor.  Apart from a 5th place finish in 2006 with Pantano, they have been 9th or 10th every season.  Even after the branding push from Giancarlo Fisichella, the team has failed to raise its game.  For 2009 they have GP2 veteran (and eternal promise) Andy Zuber, with a partial season budget that I estimate around €600k – from Dominator yachts. FMS has also signed up well-funded Luiz Razia, who stays “with the family” after contesting the Euroseries 3000 organised by raziaColoni (though he ran with Ernesto Catella’s team).  Razia probably brings in a bit more than Zuber (estimated €800k max), putting FMS about €400-500k shy of a breakeven season.  I doubt, Zuber will  make it through the season, so I’m sure Enzo Coloni is looking for some cash for mid-season onwards.  Maybe F3000 sponsor PartyPoker can fill in the gap?
  • Trident:  The “newest” team in GP2, joining in 2006, Trident started off strong and has trailed off since then.  After winning its 3rd race in GP2 with Gianmaria Bruni, Trident has won a total of 5 races.  Trident, along with ART and Arden, is the only team to win at least 1 race in every season it has contested.  Regarding 2009, not much to say except that team owner Maurizio Salvadori must be in serious trouble.  He has yet to find even 1 funded driver for the season – even a mediocre one.  Trident showed up at Paul Ricard with Davide Rigon (great driver, no budget) and Hamad Al Fardan (apparently funded).  Al-Fardan seems to have the  budget, though something is happening behind the scenes to slow down his confirmation. He is running the GP2 Asia Series with iSport and by now was expected to have a confirmed seat for the Main Series. Maybe budget is an issue for his sponsor, Gulf Finance House, given that the gap between Asia and Main is a substantial amount (between €500k and €700k higher).  We’ll have to wait until the tests at Montmelo for an update.  2009 will be a terrible season for Trident economically, and no doubt a top candidate in the “for sale” category.
  • Ocean:  Even as the only team not to win a GP2 race (under the BCN Competicion banner), Ocean still has  better team standings stats than Durango and DPR.   Tiago Monteiro  will have a rude awakening in the glamorous world of GP2 ownership.  Monteiro has yet to announce a title sponsor to support his signing of national talent Alvaro Parente (Galp?).  Parente is a GP2 race winner, but lacks the full budget for a GP2 season.  Teammate Karun Chandhok, another GP2 veteran is still India’s hope for their next F1 driver.  With cash from Punj Lloyd and Amaron, plus maybe a partial budget from Parente – Ocean may reach the €1.2 million mark.  Without a title sponsor to kick in at least €600 to 700k, Ocean will find that GP2 is indeed a tough business.
  • Durango: An ex-F3000 team, Durango has a long and storied history led by Ivone Pinton, though their trek through GP2 has seen them consistently languish at the bottom.  After starting off strong with a win from Clivio Piccione in the feature race at Nurburgring in 2005, Durango has seen few happy days.  Except for 2007, when some consistency from Borja Garcia landed the team 8th in the team standings, they have always failed to make the top 10.  2008 ended strong with a win from Davide Valsecchi, driver who is staying on and should be competitive, now backed by Renault’s RDD programme.  The second seat is still vacant and was filled by Spanish F3 runner-up Nelson Panciatici.  Pending this confirmation, Durango will no doubt have a troubled 2009 season financially.  Probably another team to add to the “for sale” list as the seasomichael_herck_2008_gp2_magny-cours1n drags on.
  • DPR:  Though consistently at the back, DPR enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame with 2 wins from Olivier Pla in 2005 (both sprint races).  Since then, DPR has suffered through the Direxiv debacle and David Price (the “DP” in DPR) has sold a majority stake to businessman Andre Herck.  With son Michael at the wheel of the first car, DPR still has no second driver.  Giacomo Ricci filled in at Paul Ricard but I would be surprised to see him piece together a full 2009 budget.  DPR will suffer in 2009, though it’s probably not the first year for them.