Forward Racing will not be at Indianapolis for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. As was widely expected, the team formally announced today that they lacked the funds to take part in the race. The team is now focused on making it to the following round, at Brno in the Czech Republic.
The team has been in severe financial difficulty ever since the arrest by the Swiss authorities of team owner Giovanni Cuzari on charges of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion. First, the team had all of its assets seized, as they were all in the name of Cuzari. Then, a number of its sponsors, including MotoGP title sponsor Athina, withdrew their support and stopped payment. With no access to existing funds and payment of new funds impossible, it was clear that making it to Indianapolis would be impossible.
Since the arrest of Cuzari, directly after the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring, team managing director, Marco Curioni, and the rest of the back office group have been hard at work trying to resolve the future of the team, both long term and short term. To ease the short-term financial problems, they set up new bank accounts and financial administration with permission from the Lugano prosecutor's office, which had ordered the seizure of existing accounts and admin. They have then been involved in talks with new and existing sponsors, to try to raise the funds needed to keep going until the end of the year. Curioni told Italian website GPOne that the team needed €2 million to make to the end of 2015, a mammoth task.
The long-term future of the team is a much more difficult prospect. The biggest problem facing the team is the contract with Yamaha for the supply of YZR-M1s for the 2016 season. Under normal circumstances, negotiations would be starting around now with Yamaha for the supply of bikes for next season, as the Japanese manufacturer needs a long lead time to ensure the production and supply of the necessary parts. Signing a deal will require financial guarantees being in place, something Forward is currently not in position to give. Until either the team secures a more solid financial footing, or Cuzari is released and acquitted of the charges, such guarantees will be hard to secure.
Curioni was at pains to express his gratitude to Dorna and IRTA. The two organizations behind the running of MotoGP have gone a long way towards helping the team, guaranteeing their grid slots in MotoGP even if they miss both Indy and Brno. IRTA have been working hard to find solutions to the logistical problems facing the team, and Dorna have shown willing to help. But the patience and assistance of both Dorna and IRTA have their limits. If the team cannot show progress towards putting themselves on a firmer financial footing in the next month or so, then IRTA may be forced to revoke the grid slots. It is believed that IRTA are exceptionally reluctant to do that, and view this measure only as the very last resort.
The decision to skip Indianapolis leaves Forward Racing's riders in a difficult situation. Moto2 riders Simone Corsi and Lorenzo Baldassari are perhaps in the best situation, as both have proved capable of scoring solid points in the very tough Moto2 class. Finding another ride for 2016 will be difficult, but not impossible. The situation for MotoGP riders Stefan Bradl and Loris Baz is much more complicated. Bradl has had a very tough year in 2015, having difficulty getting to grips with the Open class electronics, and then breaking his scaphoid in a massive highside caused by the electronics at Assen. Bradl is a long way off his stated aim of winning the Open class this year. The 25-year-old German is being linked to Aprilia, who need a replacement for Marco Melandri for the rest of the season. Aprilia test rider Michael Laverty is currently filling in for Melandri on a race-by-race basis, but as he is also racing in BSB, Aprilia may feel that having a full-time rider who could continue into 2016 may be a better option. Bradl told Speedweek that he will be speaking with his lawyer this week to look at how to proceed. Loris Baz has done well in his first season in MotoGP, but has yet to make a lasting impression. His future in the class may rest more in the hands of current Moto2 leader Johann Zarco. If Zarco moves up to MotoGP, then Dorna will have their fast Frenchman, which would make Baz' services surpus to requirement.
Below is the press release issued by the team:
Forward Racing renounces to Indianapolis trip
In the aftermath of the arrest and the charges against Giovanni Cuzari, director and owner of Forward Racing, the Team, through its closest collaborators, has returned to work immediately to stem the possible consequences of this situation, in order to continue its sport activity and to end the current season, following also the desire of Giovanni.
Unfortunately, the reaction of the sponsors, the main source of income of an independent team, was immediate and resolute. Inevitably some of them canceled the existing contracts and interrupted payments, creating further financial troubles that could jeopardize completely the surviving of the Team.
The activity of these last days was therefore focused on rebuilding sponsor relationships, the Team was able to reach a consensus to regain some vital economic aid to cover the costs of the upcoming races. New processes of collection and payment were activated, the economic admin was rebuilt and new operational modalities were agreed with the Public Prosecutor of Lugano (Procura di Lugano).
The concrete possibility to start again and the hope to protect the interests of our riders, engineers, contractors and suppliers, led us to agree with IRTA, the International Racing Teams Association, not to deploy our riders at the start of the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix on August 9th, in order to gather all the resources and to better organize the upcoming trips.
This painful decision was necessary in order to try to ensure our participation to the World Championship until the end of the season. The work of the team will continue with the aim to get back on track at Brno for the bwin Grand Prix České republiky scheduled on August 16th.