February 25, 2009 / 5:46 PM / 11 years ago

INTERVIEW-Motor racing-Stoddart sceptical of U.S. team's chances

LONDON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - A planned U.S.-based Formula One team for 2010 will struggle to raise funding and would be better off operating out of Britain, former Minardi Formula One and Champ Car team owner Paul Stoddart said.

In a telephone interview with Reuters from the United States on Wednesday, the Australian entrepreneur also questioned the USF1 team’s timing.

“I believe we are a year or two away from getting the costs (in Formula One) completely under control and I don’t believe that new teams will come from the U.S., I think they will come from within Europe,” he said.

“I would have said that if you are going to operate successfully, first of all start thinking about a base in the U.K.” he added.

“Unless you have massive budgets like Ferrari or Toyota, then you kind of need to be in the U.K. Most of the people come out of the U.K, they don’t really want to live in other countries.”

USF1 founders revealed plans on Tuesday to establish a team in Charlotte, North Carolina, with more than 100 people to take on the likes of Ferrari and McLaren from outside the sport’s European heartland.

They also have plans to set up a separate logistics operation somewhere in Europe, probably northern Spain or southern France.

Stoddart said his own experience had taught him it would be tough to persuade U.S. companies to part with their cash, particularly when the country had so little exposure to the sport and was in the grip of one of the worst recessions in living memory.

TURBULENT FUTURE

“I personally can’t see how they are going to pull a major sponsor or investor out of the U.S. when there’s no race (there),” said the Australian, who sold Minardi in 2005 before moving into the now-defunct Champ Car series.

“Very few Americans care terribly much about Formula One... and I certainly found it harder to get money over here than in Europe. Indeed, impossible.

“Towards the end of Champ Car you could have counted the sponsors in the series that weren’t related to somebody (in the series) on one hand. In fact, you wouldn’t even need all your fingers.”

He also warned that, despite urgent measures to cut costs, Formula One faced a turbulent year ahead.

“I think we are going to see a bit more pain before there is any upside,” he said. “We’ve currently got 10 teams, just, and are we going to be able to say that at the end of 2009?”

Honda announced in December that they were pulling out due to the financial situation, with their team still hanging in the balance only a month before the start of the season in Australia on March 29. Their problems have turned the spotlight on Toyota, who have spent more than $1 billion without winning a race, and Renault who are staring at a big hole in their budget since title sponsor ING will be cutting ties at the end of 2009.

“Let’s see what happens to Honda, see what happens to perhaps one or two others out there that maybe are having second thoughts,” said Stoddart.

“I am more concerned that we keep 10 teams than get too worried about (the arrival) of 11 and 12.”

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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