|Long name||Parmalat Forti Ford (1995)|
Forti Grand Prix (1996)
|Debut||1995 Brazilian Grand Prix|
|Races||27 (44 starts from 54 entries)|
|Wins||0 (Best: 7th, 1995 Australian Grand Prix)|
|Poles||0 (Best: 19th, 1996 Brazilian Grand Prix)|
|Fastest laps||0 (Best: 10th, 1996 Monaco Grand Prix)|
|Last race||1996 British Grand Prix|
Forti Corse, commonly known as Forti, was an Italian motor racing team chiefly known for its brief, and unsuccessful, involvement in Formula One in the mid-1990s. It was established in the 1970s and competed in lower formulae for two decades, with some success. The team graduated to F1 as a constructor and entrant in 1995 and continued into 1996, before succumbing to financial problems mid-season. The team competed in a total of 27 Grands Prix, scoring no points, and is recognised as one of the last truly privateer teams to race in an era when many large car manufacturers were increasing their involvement in the sport.
Establishment and early years
The team was founded by Italian businessmen Guido Forti, a former driver, and Paolo Guerci, an engineer, in the late 1970s and was based in Alessandria in northern Italy. It was initially run in lower motor racing categories such as Formula Ford and Formula Three, both at Italian and European levels. The team was well-equipped and soon became a regular winner. Forti drivers Franco Forini, Enrico Bertaggia, Emanuele Naspetti and Gianni Morbidelli (who would all go on to drive in F1) won Italian F3 titles in 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989 respectively. Teo Fabi and Oscar Larrauri also raced for the team in its formative years, the former winning the Italian FFord 2000 championship as early as 1977, and the latter racing as far afield as Formula Three Sudamericana. Forti continued racing in F3 until 1991, when it quit the formula to concentrate solely on International Formula 3000.
For 1987, Forti Corse moved up to Formula 3000 with less immediate success than experienced in F3. The main reason for this was the decision on which chassis the team should use to compete with. Instead of using customer Lolas, Marches or Ralts, all of which were produced by established companies who had many years' experience of designing and building such cars, Forti stuck with their F3 Italian chassis supplier Gian Paolo Dallara, who had just designed his company's first F3000 machine. Forti was the first team to use this machine, which was dubbed the Dallara 3087 (and which later would make a single appearance in Formula One for the Scuderia Italia team, as its own F1 car was not ready for the first race of the 1988 season). A combination of an inexperienced team and an untested car was not a suitable platform for any success, and so Forti did not score any points in its first F3000 year. In addition, the team did not manage to attend every race on the schedule. The team used the first year to gain valuable experience in F3000, and this helped the team to perform better in the following seasons, as did a change to the more competitive Lola and then Reynard chassis. In 1990, Gianni Morbidelli scored Forti's first victory in an F3000 race, and although no Forti driver won a championship title in this category, the team turned out to be a strong force. From 1991 onwards, Forti concentrated solely on F3000, and ran drivers such as Emanuele Naspetti, Fabrizio Giovanardi, Andrea Montermini (who would later race for the team in F1) and Hideki Noda (who would lose out to Montermini for the F1 seat). Indeed, this was Forti's most successful season in F3000, with Naspetti a strong contender for the championship (which was won by Christian Fittipaldi). Although the team's form dipped over subsequent years, by 1994 Forti was the most experienced team in the championship, employing Noda and Pedro Diniz as drivers.
As the team became more successful, Forti started thinking about the next logical move upwards, into Formula One. However, there had been several discouragingly recent examples of teams which had graduated from F3000 into F1 and failed more or less immediately due to a lack of finance. In preceding years, examples of unsuccessful teams of this nature included Coloni and Onyx. But conversely, Eddie Jordan had shown that the move could be made successfully, with an impressive performance in 1991 with his Jordan team. Forti considered a solid financial base to be the most important factor for success. In 1991 he therefore started working on his Formula One project. At the end of 1992, he signed a deal with wealthy Brazilian driver Pedro Diniz, whose personal fortune and sponsorship connections proved invaluable in increasing the team's budget. By 1993, through Diniz, Forti met Carlo Gancia, an Italo-Brazilian businessman. Gancia became a co-owner of the team, buying Guerci's shares, and started working on the team's Formula One project. He finally managed to ensure a respectable budget for Formula One by late 1994, which was "effectively underwritten by the Diniz family". He also hired several experienced personnel, including designer Sergio Rinland and former Ferrari team manager Cesare Fiorio.
The Forti FG01 car
Main article Forti FG01
With this securing of financial assistance and recruitment of staff, Forti's participation in Formula One for 1995 was assured. Financed by various Brazilian enterprises, such as Kaiser and Sadia, and the Italian corporation Parmalat which were brought in by Abílio dos Santos Diniz, the father of Pedro, the team was guaranteed financial stability in the short term, with a first year budget of around £7.5 million. In addition, this was only the first year of a planned three-year contract with Diniz and his backers. However, the harder task for the team was designing and building its own car for the first time (as required by the F1 regulations). This turned out to be the main obstacle for Guido Forti, as he insisted on having a reliable car built instead of a fast one. That was precisely what he received: his first F1 car, the Forti FG01, was an outdated, overweight and very slow machine, and has been described as nothing more than "a revised F3000 car" and, more harshly, "a fearful pile of junk".
"It simply wasn't efficient and we had to restart it. We took off more than 60 kg from the first version to the last and by Silverstone we were on the minimum weight limit. During the year we also had to re-homologate the nose and side pods, develop the semi-automatic gearbox, which was worth about half a second a lap, and redesign the monocoque, not in terms of shape but in terms of the lay-up of the skins."
The FG01 had many influences. Its roots dated back to 1991 when former Brabham designer Rinland left the British team before the season ended. Rinland set up Astauto Ltd. in Tolworth, England, hiring several of his former collaborators from Brabham when the team closed its doors. Brabham sold the building and wind tunnel at Chessington to Yamaha, facilities that Astauto rented to develop the new Fondmetal GR02, which was designed and built by June 1992, just six months after it was commissioned by Gabriele Rumi. The Fondmetal GR02 was a natural successor of the Brabham BT60, in concept, as it was conceived by the same design team. Due to Fondmetal's own severe financial troubles, the GR02 was run only in a few races before the team was closed. When in late 1994, Forti bought the remains of the Fondmetal Team, acquiring all the spares of the GR02 in the process, the team then turned to Rinland to purchase the design of what would have been the 1993 F1 car design by the Astauto Design Team after the collapse of the Fondmetal team. At that time, Rinland was living and working in California on a new ChampCar project. Forti sent his Chief Designer and former Astauto employee Chris Radage to California to gather all the technical information, data and drawings from Rinland, returning to Italy to design and develop the new Forti FG01. Rinland joined the team in early 1995 for a short period as Technical Director, once he had returned to Europe. Rinland assisted experienced Italian engineers Giorgio Stirano and Giacomo Caliri in designing the car. The car's aerodynamics were completed by former Brabham employee Hans Fouche using wind-tunnels in South Africa, and composite work was done by the Belco Avia company. However, it was rumoured that the FG01 was little more than a re-working of the GR02.
Thus the FG01 did not promise much in terms of performance. It was angular and bulky, with poor aerodynamic performance negatively affecting grip and handling; it had a plump nose, initially no airbox, and was overweight and under-powered, using a small Ford-Cosworth ED V8 customer engine largely financed by Ford do Brasil. It was also the only car to have a manual gearbox in the 1995 F1 season. The only attractive thing about the car was its blue and yellow colour scheme accompanied by fluorescent green wheel-rims, illustrating the team's Brazilian influence in its first year. Rinland subsequently left the team after a few weeks, after falling out with the team's management over the car's lack of competitiveness.
The 1995 season
Forti's first number one driver was rookie Pedro Diniz who had raced for Forti in F3000, but without much success. However, he was guaranteed a seat as his family and sponsors were paying a significant amount of the team's budget. The second driver was later confirmed as his more experienced compatriot Roberto Moreno, who had last competed in F1 back in 1992 when he had a disastrous year driving for the infamous Andrea Moda team. However, his seat was initially only guaranteed on a race-by-race basis with only the two season-opening South American GPs confirmed, as Portuguese driver Pedro Lamy amongst others was also considered. The team had also had the option of signing several other experienced Brazilian drivers including Christian Fittipaldi, Mauricio Gugelmin and Gil de Ferran. It was speculated that whoever joined the team would be contractually bound to be number two to Diniz, and that his father had insisted on an all-Brazilian driver line-up.
At the beginning of the season, the cars were embarrassingly slow, despite a healthy amount of testing. Diniz finished 10th in the season-opening Brazilian GP, but was seven laps down on winner Michael Schumacher. He and Moreno also suffered the ignominy of colliding with each other during Friday qualifying. In Argentina, this situation became worse, as, although both drivers finished, they were both nine laps down on winner Damon Hill at the end of the race (with Diniz ahead) and neither were classified, as they had failed to complete 90% of the race distance. The drivers' similar fastest laps during the race were over ten seconds slower than Schumacher's fastest race lap, and almost five seconds slower than the next slowest runner's fastest lap (Domenico Schiattarella in the Simtek). Imola was similarly poor, as both drivers finished seven laps down (with Diniz again ahead) and brought up the tail of the field. Forti were already the butt of paddock jokes, and were far slower than the other (and financially poorer) backmarkers: Pacific, Simtek, and Minardi. However, the budget enabled improvements to be made to the car. During the season, its weight was reduced by a significant 60 kilograms, and a semi-automatic gearbox, an airbox and redesigns of the front wing, sidepods and monocoque were introduced by the team. The personnel count also doubled during the course of the season. This resulted in a gradual improvement in pace throughout the year, and there were no more non-classified finishes.
Indeed, the team's finishing record was good for rookies at 50% (excluding the non-classifications), helping Diniz to establish a reputation as a steady, dependable driver. Forti were then elevated when Simtek folded after the Monaco GP, and Pacific's lack of finance and development enabled Forti to start matching them from the half-way point of the season. At the German GP, both Fortis outqualified both the Pacifics, and this happened on two further occasions during 1995. Forti's improvement was also aided by Pacific taking on two slow pay-drivers to ensure that the team finished the season, and regular driver Bertrand Gachot being race-rusty on his return for the last two races of the year. At the final race of the season, in Adelaide, Forti seemed to have established a firm base for the 1996 season, emphasised by Moreno qualifying within 107% of pole position for the first time - a crucial result, as this percentage of the pole time would be used to determine non-qualifiers in 1996 - and Diniz scoring the team's best result in F1, with a reliable run to seventh place, ahead of Gachot in the Pacific. In 1995, a seventh place finish did not secure any points, but under the current points system (as used since 2003), this would have seen Forti score two points. Nevertheless, despite not scoring any points, Forti finished a de facto 11th in the Constructors' Championship, ahead of Pacific and Simtek by virtue of better finishes outside of the points.
Post-championship, Forti took part in the 1995 Bologna Motor Show, where three FG01s – driven by Andrea Montermini, Giovanni Lavaggi and Vittorio Zoboli – raced against, and lost to three Minardis in the Formula One Indoor Trophy.
Despite the progress made by Forti during the course of the season, 1995 was still regarded as a failure. The team had spent more money than its immediate rivals in designing, building and developing a fundamentally inefficient car. Diniz and his sponsors were described as "throwing their money away", and the Brazilian's reputation as a serious F1 driver was damaged, as it took him several years to prove that he was not just in the sport because of his funding. In addition, Moreno's participation with Forti was lamented by many observers, who felt that the experienced driver did not deserve the ignominy of such an uncompetitive car. The team's lack of pace was demonstrated by calculating all of the 1995 drivers' average qualifying time: both Diniz and Moreno were an average of over seven seconds off the fastest average qualifier, David Coulthard. The only positives were the decent reliability record – with the cars completing 59.1% of the total 1995 race distance; and the fact that the team would still be funded for two further years by the Diniz family.
The 1996 season
With a solid base to build on and a healthy budget, 1996 looked promising for Forti. The team negotiated for the most powerful and expensive Cosworth V8 engines in late 1995 to replace the outdated and underpowered ED models. However, the team was dealt a devastating blow when Pedro Diniz signed for the more competitive Ligier team, taking Martin Brundle's vacated seat as the latter moved to Jordan. Diniz's sponsors, including Parmalat and Marlboro, all left; the budget was significantly dented. For a time it seemed that the team would not compete in 1996 at all, and its survival was constantly questioned. The new car was delayed, and the team was forced to use the uprated FG01B car for the start of the season with the only slightly more competitive Ford Zetec-R V8 engine (instead of the "JS" it had been negotiating for), and to rely on temporary sponsors. Despite this loss, the team got on with the business of racing. Roberto Moreno had been dropped (he retired from F1) after failing to beat Diniz the previous year, and the team signed Minardi and Pacific refugees Luca Badoer and Montermini to drive (although Noda was also considered), both drivers bringing a small amount of personal backing. Frenchman Franck Lagorce was also signed as a test driver. Pacific had folded during the off-season, and it was clear that Forti would be some way behind the rest of the field in the slow FG01B. Predictably, both drivers failed to make the new 107% cut in Melbourne and thus did not qualify, but then both drivers surprisingly managed to qualify in Brazil and Argentina, scoring a 10th and an 11th place finish between them. Badoer, however, made a mark in Argentina for all the wrong reasons. As Diniz attempted to lap him, the two collided and Badoer's car flipped over; the Italian escaping injury. Both cars then failed to qualify at the Nürburgring.
Forti produced a new chassis, the FG03, for the next race of the season in Imola. It had been designed by George Ryton, who had become Forti's Technical Director after moving from Ferrari in April. Both drivers judged it a significant improvement over the old car, with increased aerodynamic downforce and directional sensitivity, but there was only one FG03 available, and Montermini failed to qualify in the old car. Badoer, however, qualified last, but comfortably within the 107% cut-off, and only 0.7s behind Ricardo Rosset in the Footwork. Badoer finished 10th and last, but had suffered reliability problems in the new car and was two laps behind Pedro Lamy's Minardi. Both drivers qualified in Monaco, but Montermini crashed in the wet warm-up session and did not start the race, whilst Badoer struggled in the slippery conditions and took out Jacques Villeneuve as he was being lapped by the Williams. He was fined $5000 and received a two-race suspended ban.
Deal with Shannon Racing
After the Monaco GP, there were rumours that the team would not survive the season without some form of takeover. In the period before the next race, the Spanish GP, Belco Avia boss Arron Colombo announced that a deal had been reached between Guido Forti and an entity known as Shannon Racing, owned by parent company Finfirst, for the latter to buy 51% of the team's shares in the team. Shannon Racing was believed to be an Irish-registered section of a Milanese financial group, and had already established teams in various Formula Three championships and in Formula 3000 in 1996. The group was keen to move into Formula One, and Forti provided an opportunity for this to happen. It was believed that Colombo had organised the deal because Belco Avia was owed money by Forti.
For the Spanish GP, the cars therefore appeared in a new green-and-white livery, apparently confirming Shannon Racing's acquisition of 51% of Forti. This finacial boost appeared to ensure the team's survival. With all the off-track confusion, both drivers again failed to qualify. Nevertheless, at the Canadian and French Grands Prix, both Fortis made it to the grid, Badoer even outqualifying Rosset in Montréal. However, Forti had lost its good 1995 reliability record, as these starts only resulted in four retirements. By this time, Forti's financial problems due to a conflict between Guido Forti and Shannon Racing were becoming increasingly urgent in nature. Both cars retired with "engine problems" at the French GP, although it was widely rumoured that this was due to the team running out of engine mileage as it went into debt with engine suppliers Cosworth.
Bankruptcy and withdrawal from Formula One
Guido Forti alleged that Shannon Racing had not paid him any money, and refuted the claim that it now owned 51% of his team. He duly took the company to court over the matter. As the team ran out of money, it was doubtful whether it would turn up at the British GP. In the end, the team took part, only for the cars to complete a handful of laps each. This was because it was becoming increasingly in debt to Cosworth and was running out of engine mileage for its cars, only having enough to make a token effort at participation. In the midst of the turmoil, Fiorio left the team and was replaced by Daniele Coronna. The team made it to Hockenheim, but both cars remained unassembled in the pit garages throughout the weekend after the engine supply was finally cut off. With the prospect of heavy FIA-imposed fines for missed races looming if the situation did not improve, Forti withdrew his team from the sport. The team did not make an appearance at the Belgian GP, nor at any further point in the championship. Badoer and Montermini were left without drives, and the promising FG03 chassis would no longer race. By the time Shannon Racing won the court case in September, Forti had ceased to exist. Shannon Racing's teams in the lower motorsport categories also closed down. Ironically, Guido Forti had signed the 1997 Concorde Agreement shortly before his team's demise, which could have given his team a chance of surviving if it had made it into 1997.
Forti's withdrawal marked not only the end of its participation in Formula One, but also terminated a team which had enjoyed success in Formula 3000 and other minor categories. It is generally agreed that Forti may have succeeded if it had its 1995 budget and the FG03 car at the same time, and that Diniz's departure meant that it stood little chance of survival, but the team has become another example of a small, backmarking team unable to finance its aspirations; one of the final "privateer" teams to enter the sport in an era of increasing influence and participation from the large car manufacturers. Forti is often cited along with Pacific and Simtek as prime examples of this tendency.
It was also argued that the increasing amount of money involved in financing an F1 team which was forcing many of the smaller teams to withdraw in the early to mid-1990s was a long-term threat to the future of the sport. Alternatively, some saw Forti and similar tail-enders as undeserving of a place in F1, and it has been suggested that the imposition of the 107% rule by the FIA in 1996 was a move to force them to raise their game or leave the sport altogether.
However, the Forti F1 cars have since been used for other purposes. At the 2000 Autosport International, two Forti chassis were used as part of an "F1 Driving Experience" programme organised by the Aintree Racing Drivers' School. Examples of the FG03 are also currently being used as part of F1-themed track days in the United Kingdom at motor racing circuits such as Rockingham.
The Forti team appears in the PlayStation video game Formula 1, the first in a long-running series of Sony games based on the sport. The team is also featured in the Nintendo 64 game F1 Pole Position 64, featuring the white and green Shannon livery. The games were based on the 1995 and 1996 seasons, respectively.
* Including points scored for other teams.
Complete Formula 3000 results
(Results in bold indicate pole positions.)
|1987||Dallara 3087||Cosworth V8||A||SIL||VAL||SPA||PAU||DON||PER||BH||BIR||IML||BUG||JAR||0||NC|
|1989||Lola T89/50||Cosworth V8||A||SIL||VAL||PAU||JER||PER||BH||BIR||SPA||BUG||DIJ||7||9th|
|1990||Lola T90/50||Cosworth V8||A||DON||SIL||PAU||JER||MOZ||PER||HOC||BH||BIR||BUG||NOG||20||7th|
|1992||Reynard 92D||Cosworth V8||A||SIL||PAU||CAT||PER||HOC||NÜR||SPA||ALB||NOG||MAG||44||2nd|
|1993||Reynard 93D||Cosworth V8||A||DON||SIL||PAU||PER||HOC||NÜR||SPA||MAG||NOG||20||5th|
|1994||Reynard 94D||Cosworth V8||A||SIL||PAU||CAT||PER||HOC||SPA||EST||MAG||9||7th|
Complete Formula One results
|1995||Forti FG01||Ford ED V8||G||BRA||ARG||SMR||ESP||MON||CAN||FRA||GBR||GER||HUN||BEL||ITA||POR||EUR||PAC||JPN||AUS||0||NC|
|Ford Zetec-R V8||G||AUS||BRA||ARG||EUR||SMR||MON||ESP||CAN||FRA||GBR||GER||HUN||BEL||ITA||POR||JPN||0||NC|
|Gold||Winner||White||Did not start (DNS)|
|Silver||2nd place||Light blue||Practiced only (PO)|
|Bronze||3rd place||Friday test driver (TD) - 2003-2007 only|
|Green||Points finish||Blank||Did not practice (DNP)|
|Blue||Non points finish inc. non classified finish||Injured or ill (inj)|
|Purple||Did not finish (Ret)||Excluded (EX)|
|Red||Did not qualify (DNQ)||Did not arrive (DNA)|
- All F1 results are taken from formula1.com.
| Forti Corse|
|FG01 • FG01B • FG03|
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