The Mori/Jones Saga
The Mori/Jones Saga is a series of events and incidents both on- and off-track that took place during the 2012 season of the Formula 1 Rejects World Race Series between Barii Mori and Sammy Jones, and to a lesser extent Phoenix McAllister and Rhys Davies. The end result of the saga was a punishment of multiple race bans for Jones, McAllister and Davies, as well as a bitter feud between Jones, and Mori and McAllister.
The events that make up the 'saga' originated in the formation of Team Phoenix by Spanish driver Phoenix McAllister mid-way through the 2011 F1RWRS season. Having left the Rosenforth Engineering team after a string of poor performances, McAllister established his own team to race in the series, and hired unknown Japanese driver Barii Mori to partner him in a two car outfit. Mori was a complete rookie to the series, albeit fairly vocal, and was often critical of some of the more senior drivers in the field who felt the rookies had little respect for them. One of these was Sammy Jones, who like McAllister also owned and drove for his own team in the F1RWRS, Jones Racing. Jones had been appalled in the way McAllister had simply left Rosenforth, which had led to the collapse of the team, and having hired Mori as well, his dislike of McAllister and his operation was defined very early on.
For McAllister, the resentment of yet another British-born and based driver and team combination in the already British and Australian-dominated series was a feeling he held on almost every race weekend. He wanted a greater diversity in the series, and particularly from Spain. An attempt to lure SEAT into the series as an engine supplier backfired on him spectacularly as he formed his new team in 2011, though later events would transpire to give McAllister the last laugh on that matter, when he successfully brought Audi, another VW marque like SEAT, into the F1RWRS in 2013. Employing Mori, who not only brought Honda engines with him, but who also aggravated the establishment, was something he simply couldn't resist.
For the 2012 F1RWRS season, McAllister re-signed Mori to his team, and with it came the supply of Honda engines. The reasons behind the deal were clear - apart from a second place at the 2011 Surfers SuperPrix, Mori had shown little to demonstrate he deserved his position in the team based on results alone. For Jones, 2012 would prove to be a crucial year. Alongside Chris Dagnall the former F1 champion, he had established his team in 2011 and now needed to build on that performance in the coming season. The youth and mischievousness of Team Phoenix was juxtaposed against the maturity and seniority of Jones and Dagnall. The two teams could hardly be any more different.
Rhys Davies was another driver who shared a dislike of Mori. An Australian, Davies, who was another former F1 driver in the paddock, was also of the opinion that the Japanese driver simply didn't belong in the F1RWRS. Whilst his opinions were of a lesser degree than those of Jones, it was clear that Davies preferred most other drivers above Mori.
The Catalyst - The 2012 Belgian Grand Prix
With their feelings about each other already well known, all that was required was a spark, an incident that would arouse controversy and send tempers boiling over. This occurred during the 2012 F1RWRS Belgian Grand Prix, where Mori who was been closely followed by none other than Jones and Davies, momentarily lost control of his car as he ran through Eau Rouge. As his Team Phoenix car stepped out, Jones and Davies tried to slow, and whilst Davies only clipped the car and span onto the grass, able to re-join, Jones smashed clean into the rear of Mori, getting airborne for a short moment and then crashing heavily against the wall. Amazingly, despite the sickening nature of the crash, Jones suffered little more than bruising, and when questioned after the race by journalists, he was at first amicable about the incident,
- "I don't want to play the blame game, but Christ knows what Mori was doing there in the road, Davies just luckily managed to get past, and I wasn't so lucky. I'm glad to have escaped with little more than a couple of bruises, and it's great to see Chris secure an excellent second place, as a team we were going really well all weekend, and I'm just sad that my race had to end in such a bad way. Still we move on, and hopefully I can bounce back at the next race. I'll be keeping an eye out for Mori that's for certain!"
Despite the attempt at trying to smooth over the incident, knowing that otherwise things would get out of hand, Jones later went completely against his initial word, following a response from Mori in the press that placed the blame firmly at Jones and Davies' feet. This would later be revealed as a misguided attempt by McAllister to gain more exposure for his team, and knowing the reaction that they would generate, he actively encouraged Mori to make accusations,
- "My back stepped out as I hit something and it caused me to lose balance for a bit and I was lucky to catch it but was hit from behind by two drivers squabbling with each other and forgetting where the brake pedal was. Glad that no one was hurt, although the crash seemed to loosen a screw in Sammy Jones' head as it seems to have effected his mouth."
Rising to the bait, and not afraid to voice his opinions in public, Jones hit back in the quickly-developing war of words with response that was published by Autosport almost a week after the race,
- "At the end of the day, if some rookie is going to accuse both myself and Davies for 'forgetting where the brake pedal is' then it sums up the attitude of modern drivers today. They can go around firing off accusations at the more experienced, older drivers but at the end of the day, youth is no match for experience, my time in F1 taught me that. My life was put in great danger by that incident, and to be honest, when I can't even get an apology from the other driver, it makes me question why I even do this anymore."
Even at this point, events were quickly getting out of hand, and two weeks after the Belgian race, at the next round in The Netherlands, despite Mori failing to qualify for the race, further comments made by him were published in the press, having been leaked by a source close to the team. Whilst it has never been proven, it's widely assumed the leak was ordered by McAllister himself to fan the flames, with the Autosport article on the matter reporting,
- "A source close to Barii Mori is quoted as saying "Barii Mori laughed at Sammy Jones' assumption that youth is no match for experience and said, 'The senile old fool may have more experience but he still scored less points than I have since I have been in F1RWRS, I even managed 3 fastest laps in 8 races and a pole, what did he get? A handful of points. Maybe next time when I have a moment that is out of my control I should wave a white flag or even give him written notice that I might run over something and have a moment, so please do not follow so closely, maybe just wave him past at the the first corner and trundle around the back of the track...We were all in danger but I had two cars that hit me and I could have suffered too.'"
The race, without Mori in it, passed by without incident, and for a while it seemed that the shouting match had tailed off, and that the two drivers would turn their attention back to their driving. However in his post-race press release, having finished 7th in the race, Jones made it clear that he wasn't finished with the matter,
- "I was relieved Barii Mori didn't make it into the race, probably one of the main reasons why I actually finished!"
Following the Dutch race, there was a break in the championship, and again to everyone watching, it appeared that tensions had eased between Jones, Mori and McAllister, with little news being reported on their feud. This was reinforced when McAllister was quizzed by reporters about his season so far, and his refusal to comment on the situation. For the meantime at least, everyone believed that common sense and maturity had prevailed. That the drivers had put their differences behind them and that the matter had been dealt with. Oh how wrong they were...
The Explosion - The 2012 British Grand Prix
In the build up to the British GP, the drivers and teams gave their thoughts on the upcoming race weekend and their ambitions for it. For Sammy Jones, he saw his home race, with his team based 15 minutes away from Silverstone, as the perfect platform from which to make his position clear. He'd had enough of Mori and his word games and was determined to show everyone who held power over the other. In his pre-race interview, he resorted to petty name-calling and made a shocking statement of intent for the race,
- "That cocky douche Mori better watch himself because if I see him in my mirrors I'll be driving that arrogant little rookie off the road! That should shut him up!"
Having previously been a model of maturity, and sensibility, Jones had stooped to new lows, and immediately after having said what he had, he deeply regretted it. His dislike of Mori now ran deep, but making threats was a step too far. Incredibly however, his comments resulted in a wave of tit-for-tat insults from McAllister, Davies and Mori, and with the race only hours away, the rivalry was as fierce as it ever had been. McAllister's response to Jones' comments was perhaps even more provocative,
- "I have to warn Sammy Jones that if he tries to do something to my driver the only thing he'll be able to handle for the rest of his life will be a wheelchair. Have a nice day."
And Davies was equally committed to getting involved, making public a request he made to Sammy, with a headline in Autosport famously reading,
- "Sammy, if you take out Mori, leave some for me!"
Even Frank Zimmer, one of the founders of the F1RWRS, waded in with his own comments to McAllister, having been teammates with him when the two drove for Rosenforth Engineering, and the two had a heated exchange on the grid just prior to the race, with the two drivers held apart from each other by ENB drivers Thomas De Bock and Aurelien Moll,
- "McAllister, if you go that length to protect Mori, just remember, I still haven't forgotten our Rosenforth days..."
- "Are you talking about the time I ****** your girlfriend? She wasn't happy with you anyway...But now seriously, why are so many people turned against Barii Mori? I don't understand it. We better watch out when we lap those guys tomorrow, but if someone tries something cheeky, there'll be more than just words..."
The scenes were unbelievable, and no-one knew exactly what the outcome would be. The argument was no longer between just Jones and Mori any more, it had spread and threatened to bring down the entire series in a mess of bickering, insults and potentially horrifying on-track incidents. The race went ahead as scheduled, with the fuming drivers simmering inside their cockpits. It took just one corner though for everything to kick off. Having qualified on the front row in second place, Jones ran wide into Copse corner at the start, and as he backed off to recover his line, he effectively brake-tested Mori who had been right behind him. Mori smashed into the back of Jones' car, and was then hit from behind as well as Davies simply drove into the Japanese driver's car without even touching the brakes. All three drivers were livid with each other and the TV cameras showed them all being led off in separate directions to prevent any further harm from being done. Enough damage had already been done, but still further developments were to come.
Chris Dagnall won the race for Jones' team, a great result that had been soured by the events surrounding the race, and upon returning to the pits having finished 9th, McAllister stormed down to the Jones Racing garage, and in the scuffle that followed between the two drivers, McAllister was able to throw a punch that broke Jones' nose. Security staff were then able to break the fight up, carrying McAllister off where he was held at Towcester Police Station until a bail of £20,000 was paid to free him the next morning. Other drivers began to make their reactions to the events public, notably Daniel Melrose who stated that,
- "I have had the privilege to race against Jones in my time in F1 and I remember several great battles with him...I highly respect him as a driver on track and off the track. However from experience Sammy has quite a short temper at times...From memory Jones is also one of the most experienced drivers in Formula One history with about 200 odd starts so I for one would be on his side."
There were also multiple reports that suggested heavy punishment for the drivers involved in the events during the Silverstone race weekend, whilst Mori was reportedly speaking to lawyers with a view to pursuing a case of attempted murder against Jones and Davies,
- "I am disappointed in Sammy Jones, I hope he thinks about what he has done and retires before the end of the season and takes up a sport that he can use his agression, maybe syncronised swimming or flower arranging. As for Rhys Davies, I am sure that NAB will not be happy at the repair bill nor at the points lost. Still I thank my team mate Phoenix for standing up for what was right, even if he did get a night in the cells and a massive bail, Sammy Jones has been told not to press charges as SAFTP have instructed their lawyers to start proceedings against RubberTex-Jones for attempted murder"
The legal proceedings never took place however, rumoured to have been scrapped by McAllister and his team due to the astronomical legal fees, and more fundamentally a lack of suitable evidence and witnesses. Having received medical attention for his nose, Jones made a damning statement against McAllister and Mori the following day,
- "I find it sickening that both McAllister and Mori have the guts to accuse me of deliberately trying to take Mori out of the race. I got a good start, but in the run down to the first corner missed my braking point slightly and as a result the corner was compromised for me. Mori being the arrogant rookie that he is just drove into the back of me. And this wasn't a situation like Belgium where Mori was just parked in the road, here I'd only lost a bit of speed and was in the process of recovering my line. My nose by the way is fine thanks. The talk of race bans is pure horsesh*t as well. I just find it hard to believe that I, as a driver and part team owner, could be accused of stooping so low. I mean jesus it was our home race! If we were farting around on some unknown backwater German track then fair enough, but this race meant a great deal to me and the foolish actions, and subsequent exchanges of words have hurt me greatly."
The Fallout - Race Bans and Sponsor Walkouts
The 'saga' was brought to a sorry end the week after the race, when the F1RWRS Commission handed out punishments to the drivers involved in the run of events. Phoenix McAllister was handed a three race ban for unsportsmanlike conduct, including harming another driver, as well a £100,000 fine and a £50,000 fine for his team. Both Sammy Jones and Rhys Davies received two race bans each, Jones for unsportsmanlike conduct and erratic driving, and just erratic driving for Davies. Barii Mori was also charged with unsportsmanlike conduct off the track, and handed a suspended one race ban and a £50,000 fine.
For Jones however, the damage had already been done. The man with whom he'd established and ran the team with until this point, Tex Pearson, decided to leave the team and end his support of it. His rubber manufacturing firm RubberTex had been the title sponsor of Jones Racing since the team's establishment in early 2011, but had now cut short what was a three year deal. For 2013, Jones would need to search for a new backer. Jones' opposition against the rule changes for 2013 meant that the team have missed the first two races of the 2013 season.
Since then, Jones and Mori have remained bitter enemies both on and off track, with both drivers looking to make cheap shots whenever they can. Jones' relationship with McAllister however has cooled in recent times, having previously reached the point where McAllister stated he never wanted to speak to Jones again. Now the two men are on better terms, with Jones even jokingly offering McAllister a seat at his team when the future of Team Phoenix was in doubt part-way into the 2014 season.
The Mori/Jones Saga though remains as a significant piece of history of the F1RWRS, with it defining a number of its main characters. The series of events has taken on an even more inflated impression in recent times, as fans and paddock members recall the incidents fondly, with some even yearning for a return to those earlier crazy days.