Austin absence looms for Caterham

Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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The administrator overseeing the crisis at Caterham fears the team will not be competing in next weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

Finbarr O’Connell, who represents London accountancy firm Smith & Williamson, says he is doing all he can to get the team on the grid at Austin.

But he has been left “distressed” and frustrated by some of the practices he has so far encountered behind the scenes at Caterham.

The gates at the team’s Leafield factory are locked for a second day and the team’s cars remain impounded, so hopes are fading fast that Caterham will be heading to Texas.

O’Connell is working on behalf of the creditors of Caterham Sports Ltd, a company which makes and supplies the cars to 1MRT, the entity which owns the licence to race in Formula One.

“I’m constantly chasing 1MRT – it should be the other way around – to engage better with me,” O’Connell told Press Association Sport.

“I can only presume they have other issues going on, but I really need them to come to me with an acceptable figure (to offer their creditors) so they can gain access again to Leafield and we can support them.

“It’s very important to us they race, very important. But the thing is, for the creditors of Caterham Sports Ltd, it’s not up to them to fund racing.

“Formula One is a rich man’s game, as we know, so (1MRT) need to fund themselves and pay their way.

“I’m responsible to my creditors, I’m an officer of the court, I need to make things better for them.

“At the moment 1MRT are trying to get me to make things worse for them, which I’m not willing to do.”

With practice in Austin just a week away, it was suggested to O’Connell that given the present situation Caterham would not be there.

O’Connell replied: “No, no. I’ve some meetings there as well – I hope Caterham F1 are there.”

In the background is the mud-slinging dispute between the past and present owners of Caterham.

Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes claims he has yet to be paid for the shares of ownership, while the buyers in a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern businessmen who took over at the end of June insist everything has been done accordingly.

O’Connell, meanwhile, has made it abundantly clear who he feels he should be dealing with – Colin Kolles, who initially served as an advisor to the consortium, but is now the man in charge.

“They tell me Colin Kolles is the principal of 1MRT. To say Tony Fernandes runs it is totally untrue,” stated O’Connell.

“There is a legal dispute as to who owns the shares of 1MRT, but Colin Kolles and his people run the F1 team, and he is the principal.”

O’Connell, however, has been left amazed by the fact Kolles has yet to make contact, adding: “I’ve spoken to some of his people.

“But it would be no harm if he phoned me as well because I’ve not spoken to him once so far.

“Overnight I reached out to (F1 supremo) Bernie Ecclestone to see if he can assist in some way because it’s in everybody’s best interests to do something.

“I’m told Colin Kolles wants to go racing; I want my creditors to get some money, and Bernie clearly wants them to be on the grid.

“You would think there is the makings of a deal there, but overnight I’ve chased 1MRT, and I’ve heard nothing back from them.”

As for the 200-plus staff whose jobs are on the line, O’Connell was given a taste of the problems they face on Thursday when he made the tough call to close the gates on the factory.

“I spoke to the head of HR earlier, and it’s quite unfortunate 1MRT don’t have an out-of-hours communication system,” said O’Connell.

“I was quite distressed 1MRT were unable to tell their employees not to go, so people travelled, only to be sent away at the gates. I tried to avoid that.

“But 1MRT didn’t have the wherewithal to organise otherwise.

“We’ve told people that once we do an acceptable deal then they will be straight back in.”

Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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