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MARCH 13, 2002

Phoenix told to go away

THE FIA has issued a statement which makes it very clear that the Phoenix Finance Formula 1 team cannot take part in the World Championship this year - because the rights of Prost Grand Prix cannot bee transferred to another body. Phoenix has been trying to force the issue and had turned up in Malaysia with two Prost AP04 chassis.

An FIA statement said: "Having examined the judgement of the Tribunal de Commerce de Versailles the FIA's advisers have noted that the court has not transferred Prost Grand Prix itself nor made any attempt to transfer the Prost Grand Prix entry in the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship, either to Phoenix Finance Limited or to Mr. Nickerson."

If Phoenix wishes to compete in 2003 it can make an entry and pay a performance bond of $48m to the FIA.

Phoenix Finance Ltd. is a mysterious organization but is "represented" by both Tom Walkinshaw (the boss of the Arrows F1 team) and by his longtime friend Charles Nickerson.

The whole operation is seen in F1 circles as a front for Walkinshaw although he says that he is simply supplying engineering know-how.

It is curious that Phoenix should turn up in Malaysia as it was clearly always going to be a waste of money but it seems that the team was hoping to brazen it out with the FIA and the other teams. There may still be legal action in the days ahead at Phoenix tries to join the World Championship but such a decision would be disastrous for F1 as it would create a precedent by which teams could move the rights from one company to another without any controls. That would mean any team with debts could simply shut up shop and start a new company - which would catastrophic for the credibility of the sport - and the teams involved.

The moves being undertaken by Phoenix would seem to reflect the attitudes of Walkinshaw rather more than Nickerson, the latter being a very relaxed character. Walkinshaw traditionally uses every legal challenge possible before accepting a decision.

Faced with opposition from the FIA, Formula One Management and most of the F1 teams, it is hard to see that he will be successful in this matter and the question being asked in F1 circles is why he is fighting so hard for a new project when it might be wiser to concentrate his efforts on his own team Arrows, which is heavily in debt and needs some good results this season.