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Spyker Protests

Colin Kolles of Spyker is orchestrating the protest against Toro Rosso’s and Super Aguri’s plans to run cars based on their owner teams’ cars next year. So far Ferrari, McLaren, Toyota, Williams (who first mentioned the problem) and Red Bull (surprisingly) have confirmed their support for Spyker’s initiative.

Colin

Spyker’s Colin Kolles

We might wonder why Red Bull have agreed, since their RB3 is rumored to be the basis of Toro Rosso’s car for 2007, but it is all in the interpretation of the rules, apparently. Section 3 of the Concorde Agreement states:

A constructor is a person (including any incorporated or unincorporated body) who owns the intellectual property rights to the rolling chassis it currently races, and does not incorporate in such chassis any part designed or manufactured by any other constructor of F1 racing cars except for standard items of safety equipment, providing that nothing in the Schedule 3 shall prevent the use of an engine or gearbox manufactured by a person other than the constructor of the chassis.

Much hinges on how you translate that phrase “owns the intellectual property rights”. It is used to avoid the potential loophole implicit in defining a constructor as one who builds the chassis – nothing would prevent a team “borrowing” the plans of another constructor and building an identical car in their own workshop in that case. That was pretty much what happened with the first Arrows car, that Shadow claimed (correctly, as the courts decided) was a copy of their design produced by the engineers who had left their employ to form Arrows in 1977.

But the term “intellectual property rights” remains the weak spot that might be tested by Super Aguri and Toro Rosso. TR’s Gerhard Berger is maintaining that their car will be designed in-house but the rumors of its RB3 foundation persist. No smoke without fire, they say. Super Aguri and Honda are keeping quiet, perhaps hoping that the protest will come to nothing or that TR will fight the battle and win.

At the moment, it all looks to be heading towards a court case, just as with Arrows all those years ago. None of the protagonists want it to end up there and arbitration has been mentioned as the way forward. No doubt it is, but it will be quite an achievement to get all the parties to participate, let alone agree to abide by any result.

So why all the fuss over something that is due to change in 2008 anyway, when customer cars will be allowed? Essentially, it’s about competitiveness in the coming season. Teams like Williams and Spyker had a hard time this year racing against Honda and there is no way they want to see Super Aguri leapfrog over them with a development of that chassis. And the reputation of Adrian Newey, designer of the RB3, is such that everyone fears the Red Bull of 2007; to have a TR equally as quick would be adding salt to the wound.

It’s a hard one to pick sides on. On the one hand, natural tendencies to support the underdog suggest that SA and TR be left to get on with it. But rules are rules in the end; whether we like it or not, Kolles is right.

The best answer would be for SA to look at what they have already achieved with a development of an old Arrows chassis and build on that by designing their own chassis from that experience. And Gerhard should surprise everyone by revealing an in-house TR design that beats the RB3!

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