How Did We All Get Here?

A tricky question that all parents don’t want to get asked by their young offspring. Fortunately, this answer doesn’t start with “When a man and a woman are in love…”

Stefan Grand Prix first came to everyone’s attention back in the summer of 2009 when the Formula One grid expanded to open up three new slots. These three went to Manor (now Virgin), Campos and USF1 leaving several hopeful entrants disappointed at not being chosen. To many people’s surprise, several bigger and more widely known names were not chosen (Lola, Prodrive/Aston Martin and Epsilon Euskadi.) However, Stefan Grand Prix only came to our attention when team boss Zoran Stefanovic lodged a complaint with the European Union claiming the FIA forced the applicants for 2010 to use engines supplied by Cosworth.

Mr. Stefanovic claims that “…we got information from Cosworth saying they were the only one engine that is allowed, which is not in the rules and not possible to be put in the rules. However, when we started to discuss it with them Cosworth sent us an email stating they were entitled to sign a contract and take money for this.”At the time Mr Stefanovic said that Campos, Manor and USF1 did not have the facilities to build a car and this would put their entry into doubt if they came up against any problems. He went on to say “… teams with their own facilities, such as Prodrive or Stefan Grand Prix, who have something which is, on the production side, fully qualified, gets rejected. So we are very interested to see what’s going on.”

Zoran Stefanovic runs the aircraft manufacturer AMCO in Belgrade which has two wind tunnels and over 100 years of aircraft manufacturing business and, at that point, had hired ex-McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, the man in the centre of the 2007 spy-scandal. AMCO had previously made Sports Cars and supplied titanium valves for F1 teams. So naturally, Mr. Stefanovic thought that he would have a decent enough shot at being included on the 2010 FIA listings.

Perhaps it was due to the complaint that Stefan GP were again overlooked when another grid slot opened up due to BMW’s withdrawal from the 2010 season. Everyone expected a Brawn GP type takeover from either the teams management, or from Peter Sauber to buy his team back. (He did eventually, but we’ll get onto that in a moment.) Lotus F1, having been given permission to use the Lotus name by David Hunt, brother of former world champion great James Hunt, we given the slot.

At this point to the end of the season, Stefan GP were in a limbo. Without a grid slot, Mr. Stefanovic decided to carry on developing the car for 2010 in the hope that either another manufacturer would pull out. Indeed, there were strong rumours that either or both Renault or Toyota would leave the sport. All of Mr. Stefanovic’s work looked like it was going to pay off when Toyota joined the exodus from F1 when they announce their withdrawal from the sport. This could be Stefan GP’s moment! But, alas, it wasn’t. Forces inside the sport were desperate to keep the BMW Sauber team, who to everyone’s surprise, had decided not to sign up to the 2010 season when they withdrew. Peter Sauber announced that he had bought out the team and he and his team were granted a way back onto the 2010 grid.

Toyota, on the other hand decided that its old F1 team would not be up for sale as a complete team. This left a half developed 2010 car with no future. Mr. Stefanovic saw the opportunity for a new entrant to get a leg up on the others and stepped into the breach to buy the 2010 Toyota designs. In the snow covered month of January, Stefan GP announced that it would receive technical support from Toyota. Indeed, if you would like a job working for Stefan GP, you are at a “…sight advantage of you are ex-Toyota F1!”

You would have thought that through all of this adversity, Stefan GP would have surely given up. But no, you can’t knock a man like Mr. Stefanovic down. With news this week that USGP and Campos are on shaky ground, Stefan GP has taken the extraordinary steps of sending a container of equipment to Bahrain. A clear indication that Stefan GP are a team to be taken seriously and are very serious in their desire to compete.

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