Australian Minardi, later known as OzJet Team Minardi Australia was an Australian racing team that competed in the F1RWRS between 2011 and 2012. Formed by Paul Stoddart, the former owner and manager of the Minardi Formula 1 team, he decided to revive the Minardi name to compete in the F1RWRS. For much of its history, Australian Minardi was a single-car outfit with Dave Simpson as its only driver until Shinobu Katayama joined the team midway through the 2012 season. Minardi's sole victory came from Simpson at the 2011 British Grand Prix. The team was bought by Sunshine Infiniti during 2012 and has raced under that name since.
The 2011 Season
Having left JLD Motorsport at the end of 2010, Dave Simpson was looking for a new drive, and having previously driven for Stoddart and Minardi in F1, the two Australians went into partnership to bring the Minardi name into the F1RWRS. The team, through Stoddart, were able to source a 2005 Minardi F1 chassis, a PS04B, alongside a supply of Cosworth V10 engines. With this package initial results for Minardi were good, with the team the best placed of the new teams for 2011 during the first few races of the year, and taking pole position for the Luxembourg GP. Prior to the team's first and only win at the sixth race of the year at Silverstone, it was announced that the team had enough money to run a second car for the rest of the year for a pay-driver. Things improved yet further when Stoddart's airline OzJet was also revealed as a new sponsor for the team whilst the long term future of Minardi looked secure when Ford Australia announced it would sponsor the team for 2012, supplying them with the latest FPV supercharged V8 engines, which would replace the existing Cosworth V10 units. Minardi's planned second car would then run as a separate entry under the name Ford Australia Racing Team.
From there however, the team struggled, and following Simpson's failure to qualify at Bathurst, Ford pulled the plug on its planned support for the team. The team's woes continued at the New South Wales race where Simpson was disqualified, and only two more points finishes followed at the Surfers SuperPrix and the final round at Laguna Seca. Overall however, the team had done remarkably well with just Simpson as the single driver, finishing 10th with 34 points and only a single point behind the best-placed single car team, Ecurie Nationale Belge.
With Ford no longer supporting the team for 2012, Minardi were left woefully under-financed and without an engine supplier for 2012. Fellow Australian Daniel Melrose and his MRT squad stepped in to help the beleaguered team, with Shell sponsorship and a customer supply of BMW P86/12 engines through his partnership with BMW. This led to further rumours that Australian Minardi would subsequently merge with another of Melrose's customers, O'Lauchlan Motorsport, with Dean O'Lauchlan driving the other Minardi car alongside Simpson.
The 2012 Season
Australian Minardi did make it to the grid for the 2012 F1RWRS season, again with lone driver Dave Simpson, whilst the team continued with the PS04B chassis for the first three races, even scoring points with a 5th place at Oschersleben.
At the Luxembourg GP, Minardi's new chassis was finally revealed, a 2010-spec car which was rumoured to have been originally designed to fit the Ford engines planned for 2012 before the US car-maker backed out. Titled the PS10, it initially featured a livery similar to the BMW M3 GT2 car that race at the 2010 Le Mans, hinting at a greater involvement of the German manufacturer in the future. A slight re-branding of the team also took place, with OzJet replaced by European Aviation as the main sponsor. A string of poor performances followed though, and the BMW engine and PS10 chassis failed to deliver any further points finishes during the first half of the year. As a result Minardi failed to meet the performance demands set out by BMW to warrant the German manufacturer's official support of the team, and following the British GP, it was made clear by Stoddart and Simpson that despite the help the team had received, Australian Minardi would fold at the end of the season.
Following the announcement that Minardi were to close, Nissan declared their interest in entering the series and with the help of existing driver Barii Mori, they purchased Australian Minardi for the token sum of AUS$5. As a result Nissan owned the majority 95% of the team, with former F1 racer and commentator Martin Brundle owning the remaining 5% through his 2MB company. With Stoddart retaining the rights to the Minardi name, the new team would become Sunshine Infiniti from the 2013 season onwards. For the remainder of the year, the future of Australian Minardi was secure, and following the takeover, Shinobu Katayama was placed alongside Dave Simpson in a second car.
At the next race of the year, the Tasman GP, the effects of the buy-out were clear to see, with Simpson setting the fastest lap of the race on his way to finishing on the podium in 3rd place, the team's best result of the year. Katayama in her first race also did well, finishing 10th. The Japanese, only the second female to compete in the F1RWRS, then went on to take her best result of the year with a 4th place at the Australian Grand Prix, though it was the last points the team would score, one of only three occasions over the whole season, leading to a paltry score of just 19, little more than half the total of 2011. Despite that, Australian Minardi still finished 10th in the championship.
Legacy and Potential Return
Sunshine Infiniti have gone on to establish themselves as a major contender in the F1RWRS paddock, no doubt aided by the preparation work carried out by both Stoddart and Simpson in building the team up from scratch. 2013 brought the team their first win, as well as two other podiums and numerous pole positions and fastest laps. Evantually however, in 2014, the team had to be sold to Portugese constoriums, DPT Asset Management and Joao Lagos Sport, although the new owners will keep the Sunshine name for time being. The power transfer meant that Sunshine parted ways with Nissan because of Nissan's withdrawal; they signed a deal with Daihatsu for 2015 and onwards.
During the 2013 season, rumours emerged about a possible takeover over the Prospec team led by Stoddart and Simpson, which would have seen the Australian Minardi name return to the F1RWRS field. Ultimately however Prospec were instead bought by the Pemberton Group who ensured that the team remained in the series.
Complete F1RWRS Results
|2011||Minardi PS04B||Cosworth V10||BAV||GER||SAX||LUX||BEL||GBR||ENG||KEN||NED||TAS||AUS||NSW||SUR||CHN||USA||34||10th|
|2012||Minardi PS10||BMW P86/12||BAV||SAX||GER||LUX||BEL||NED||GBR||KEN||ENG||TAS||SUR||NSW||AUS||CHN||USA||500||19||10th|