Andrea Moda

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Last updated: 1-January-2004


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• Andrea Sassetti buys out Coloni and enters F1 with fanfare
The teams featured on this site have one thing in common: they all failed to succeed in Formula One. What they don't share is why they failed. For all their good intentions, Life and Kauhsen had equipment that was so inept and unreliable it was best left for a junkyard. Rial had a rather uneven-tempered team boss. Teams like Pacific simply never had enough money. The MasterCard Lola fiasco was an example of rushing things so much that nothing was done properly. And in its second year the Onyx story featured antics that descended into the realm of farce.

Now add all that together, multiply by a factor of at least ten for bizarreness, and you can start to comprehend the reasons why many nominate Andrea Moda Formula as the worst team in Grand Prix history. In a 1992 season dominated to the point of boredom by Williams, the wacky goings-on at the other end of the pit lane at the team owned by Italian shoe magnate Andrea Sassetti often provided a macabre sort of amusement for those willing to be charitable. Those who weren't were left shaking their heads, wondering if this could honestly be a serious professional racing outfit.

The Andrea Moda story began towards the end of 1991, when Enzo Coloni decided to give up on his Coloni F1 team, four full seasons in F1 having reaped little more than a litany of DNQs and DNPQs. By the Spanish GP that year, it was announced that the team had been bought for 8 million pounds, and as it turned out, Sassetti was the mystery purchaser. Renaming the team after his fashion business, he had lined up a Judd engine and a Dallara gearbox for the 1992 season, and intended to use them in the back of the existing Coloni C4 chassis.

Though in the early 1990s the announcement of plans for a new team was not exactly earth-shattering, right from the start Andrea Moda and its wealthy flamboyant playboy owner were out to attract headlines. According to Formula One International magazine, when the original deal was announced Sassetti had his Scottish girlfriend guard his motorhome, her rather statuesque figure attracting "the usual welter of randy lensmen". Eager to invite publicity, he also produced a lavish brochure, notably featuring a "shadowy, nude female saxophonist".

The Coloni C4 dressed up in an Andrea Moda paint job, driven by Alex Caffi at Kyalami. Alex Caffi piloting the Coloni C4 dressed up in an Andrea Moda paint job.
• A new team? Or not a new team?
During the off-season, Sassetti also signed two Italian drivers. One was the formerly highly-regarded Alex Caffi, whose injuries and poor form had made him a persona non grata at Footwork throughout 1991. The other was Enrico Bertaggia, who had previously failed to pre-qualify a Coloni in several events in late 1989. Both of them showed up for round one of the 1992 season in South Africa, along with the old Coloni C4 decked out in Andrea Moda's all-black colour scheme, but before they saw any track action trouble was beginning to brew.

A wrangle had broken out over whether or not Andrea Moda was technically a new team, and therefore required to pay the US$100,000 fee for a new entrant. Sassetti thought he had merely taken over Coloni's entry and given it a new name. In addition, there had been precedents in the previous few years. March had become Leyton House in 1989 only to revert to being March again in 1992. Arrows and Osella had become Footwork and Fondmetal respectively in 1991. And Larrousse was lining up for the 1992 season as Venturi Larrousse. None of these teams had been required to pay a new team fee.

Sassetti therefore thought he was on safe ground. So, when an extra acclimatisation session was held on Thursday, because the revised Kyalami being a new track on the calendar, Caffi was sent out for a few laps. Both drivers anticipated having to battle four other drivers the next morning in pre-qualifying, but neither ended up getting the chance. Officials decided that Andrea Moda was a new team after all; Enzo Coloni had sold Sassetti his team's equipment but not his team's entry. Without having paid the entrance fee, Andrea Moda was scratched from the meet.

That left only thirty entries, and for the first time in a long time, the dreaded pre-qualifying was unnecessary. There was also talk since Andrea Moda was a new team, they would not be allowed to use exactly the same cars that had been previously raced by a different team. For whatever reason, after South Africa, Sassetti decided - wisely - that the Coloni C4 chassis wasn't worth the price of its paint job, and through contacts in Britain got in touch with Nick Wirth of the Simtek design company. Wirth had designs on paper for an F1 car that was reputed to be the prototype for BMW's aborted plans to enter F1 by themselves.

Andrea Moda launching its new Nick Wirth-designed S921! Andrea Moda launching its new Nick Wirth-designed S921!
• Drama in Mexico as Caffi and Bertaggia are dumped
Sassetti bought the designs, and in the two weeks until the next round in Mexico, the Andrea Moda mechanics worked feverishly to build the two chassis, dubbed the S921. They received help after hours from mechanics from other teams, who dropped in to assist for a bit of extra dough. There were fears that certain parts of the chassis would be unable to withstand the mandatory crash test, but that was nothing that a bit of carbon fibre sticking plaster couldn't fix. And there were scurrilous rumours that Max Mosley was drumming up support for the team because he was a Simtek shareholder!

The chassis were miraculously prepared in time to be flown to Mexico, and it looked like a purposeful and sleek enough machine. But Sassetti withdrew the team's entry from the Mexican GP before pre-qualifying began, citing extenuating circumstances caused by freight delays. Whilst plausible considering the rush to get the S921s ready, it did not amuse the powers that be who had supported Andrea Moda's participation, nor did it impress Caffi and Bertaggia, who were left on the sidelines for the second race running and who made their displeasure altogether clear.

So, in the finest traditions of team bosses who will never accept that they are ever at fault for any shortcoming, Sassetti fired them. In the two weeks before Brazil, instead of preparing two chassis, this time they had to find two drivers. In came Roberto Moreno, who admirably for the love of the sport would drive a wheelie bin if it was offered to him, and, after some gentle coercion from paddock insiders and journalists, the hard-trying Perry McCarthy. It seemed as though Sassetti had quite creditably gone for talent over money, possibly because at this stage the team had quite a healthy list of sponsors.

But further controversy struck. McCarthy was granted a superlicence which was just as quickly revoked before pre-qualifying at Interlagos. Moreno's was therefore the only S921 taking part, but that may well have been the case even if McCarthy had been allowed to drive, since in truth only one of the two chassis was even remotely ready for action. The Brazilian was around 15 seconds off the pre-qualifying pace, the weekend was over for Andrea Moda, and in the subsequent following week the Formula One Commission gave McCarthy his superlicence back.

Imola saw Andrea Moda do its most laps during a Grand Prix weekend. Imola saw Andrea Moda do its most laps during a Grand Prix weekend.
• Moreno does the impossible: he puts the S921 on the grid!
Only trouble was, Bertaggia had since come back grovelling to Sassetti, dangling a very considerable carrot in the form of a million dollars' worth of sponsorship. Andrea was now thinking that McCarthy was too much trouble, and wanted to re-replace him with Bertaggia, only to be told that he had already used up his allocated number of driver changes. So Sassetti found himself with a driver he didn't want, a million dollars he didn't have, and two cars, one of which was barely ready and the other of which was little more than a rolling spare. It set the tone for the rest of the season.

After a test at Imola where the team ran only one car for Moreno, Andrea Moda headed to Spain. In pre-qualifying at Barcelona, Moreno failed to complete even one lap before his engine broke. Meanwhile, the mechanics had had to work overnight just to get McCarthy's car prepared, but as has been well documented, his engine cut out after just 18 yards having just crossed the pit exit line. After the team won the argument to retrieve the machine, they changed it for Moreno before it stopped again after three laps, the Brazilian having recorded a time around 10 seconds off pre-qualifying pace.

San Marino was rather better, McCarthy managing eight laps before a differential problem, and recording a time 8.5s slower than Moreno, who was only marginally off making the top four in pre-qualifying. But then came Monaco, where McCarthy was only allowed three laps before his car was brought back in to be kept as a spare for his team-mate. The Englishman probably wouldn't have wanted many more though, since his crew had not made him a proper race seat, and he had been battered around badly on the torturously bumpy street circuit.

However, in a miracle science has been unable to explain, Moreno pipped Ukyo Katayama's Venturi Larrousse for fourth place in pre-qualifying, and was into the main qualifying session. There, with a time of 1:24.945, he outpaced Eric van de Poele's Brabham by 0.036s, who in turn was quicker than Damon Hill in the other Brabham, Andrea Chiesa in the Fondmetal, and Paul Belmondo's March. In other words, Moreno was 26th fastest, and on the grid! In the race, he stayed in last place, but was up to 19th thanks to attrition when his Judd engine failed after 11 laps.

An Unsolved Mystery: how did Moreno get his Andrea Moda onto the grid? An Unsolved Mystery: how did Moreno get his Andrea Moda onto the grid?
• Murphy's Law: whatever could go wrong, did go wrong
Still, the Andrea Moda S921 had started its first race, and hopes were high that this performance would attract more sponsors. Little did they know the bizarre calamities awaiting them. Before the next race in Canada, a suspected case of arson destroyed Sassetti's discotheque on the east coast of Italy, and as he fled from the flames, a gunman shot at him, but missed. As if that was not enough of a nuisance, when he showed up in Montreal, he discovered that the two S921 chassis were there - but the Judd V10 engines were not!

Apparently, the engines had been loaded onto a British Airways trans-Atlantic flight, but a storm in Europe had cut electricity and caused the airline to offload all freight. Unable to safely balance the loads without a computer before the plane had to take off, the engines were left sitting on the terminal! Sassetti launched a scathing attack against the freight company and the FOCA, claiming that the mishap had cost them $1 million. He seemed to forget that officialdom was already treating his team leniently for essentially running one-and-a-half cars when they were supposed to be a two-car operation.

Eventually they borrowed an engine from Brabham, but Moreno was about 15 seconds off pre-qualifying pace. So the team returned to Europe for the French GP, but in the meantime Frederic Dhainaut left the team manager's position, claiming to be starting his own team for 1993 although that never happened. But if Sassetti thought things couldn't get worse after the Canada debacle, he was in for a rude shock. A lorry drivers' blockade over a new licensing system had paralysed the main roads throughout France, and the teams had to resort to back roads to get their transporters to Magny-Cours.

All managed to make it, except - you guessed it - Andrea Moda. Sassetti's team got stuck in the blockade and simply never showed up. Despite the Monaco performance, two virtual no-shows meant that almost all their sponsors had headed for the exit. And yet by now Sassetti had realised that Formula One was a costly exercise, especially when what he inherited from Coloni was worthless and he had had to virtually start from scratch, now with two drivers who were bringing little to the team. He himself also didn't feel like spending any more, and was happy to focus all attention on Moreno's car.

Moreno exiting the pits in Hungary. Moreno exiting the pits in Hungary.
• McCarthy given 45 seconds on track
So the team appeared at Silverstone with plain black cars and virtually no sponsorship. The pre-qualifying session started on a track wet from overnight rain, and Moreno had a few laps on a set of wet tyres which were then put on McCarthy's car, by which stage the track was dry! Pushing hard but inevitably going off the track on the gripless rubber, Perry set a time over 16 seconds slower than what Moreno eventually managed before his clutch exploded, but Roberto's time on slicks was still nowhere near good enough to make it into the main qualifying sessions.

The performances were getting more and more absurdly pointless as each race passed. McCarthy failed to record a time in Germany despite his desperate efforts, and after missing a weight-check, he was disqualified from the meet. Moreno's best at Hockenheim was still a few seconds adrift of the fourth-placed pre-qualifier. Nonetheless, by Hungary, there was at least a new sponsor to emblazon the engine cover. Also, van de Poele had moved to Fondmetal, and the cash-strapped Brabham team had decided against replacing him. That meant that pre-qualifying only needed to weed out one car, and at least one Andrea Moda was guaranteed of participating in qualifying proper.

Which one was not allowed to go beyond Friday morning was not hard to decide, especially when Andrea Moda did everything it possibly could to prevent McCarthy from having a proper go. At the Hungaroring, poor Perry was only allowed out of the pits 45 seconds before the session finished, giving him no time to record a flying lap. McCarthy was understandably and justifiably fed up with Sassetti, who in turn was still angry that by being forced to keep the Englishman, the extra million dollars that Bertaggia could have brought had disappeared into thin air. Their mutual hostility was clear for all to see.

Moreno, meanwhile, was the slowest of the remaining 30, 6.81 seconds slower than Riccardo Patrese's Williams on pole and about 1.3s shy of making the grid. But after the debacle of McCarthy's DNPQ, FISA delivered Andrea Moda an ultimatum: make a proper effort to run the Englishman's car, or else. Come Spa and the Belgian GP, and with the demise of Brabham altogether, pre-qualifying was unnecessary and both S921s were into qualifying proper. Then the failure of Erik Comas to set a time in his Ligier meant that the worst they could do was come 28th and 29th.

McCarthy at Spa, where a decision by his team could have killed him. McCarthy at Spa, where a decision by his team could have killed him.
• Sassetti is taken away, and Andrea Moda is banned
Which is exactly where they ended up. Moreno was 28th fastest, 14.551s off pole and over 5.7s off qualifying, with McCarthy another 10 seconds back, having suffered a flexing steering arm while hurtling through Eau Rouge - a fault which, amazingly, the team already knew about. Then halfway through the weekend, Belgian police came and arrested Sassetti on allegations of fraud. With that, the team was banned from the rest of the championship for bringing the sport into disrepute. It was the last act in a season where, if anything outrageous could happen to Andrea Moda, it usually did.

Before the British GP, Autosport had written that the Andrea Moda mechanics would "doubtless be rewarded with unemployment" and that Moreno would "probably be better off gardening". Sassetti's half-hearted approach contributed to the team's endless failings and mishaps, which in turn obliterated any sense of the team's professionalism. Autosport had also commented, "... motor racing should really be left to motor racing people, people who have a vague idea ... what they are doing." In Andrea Moda's case, hardly was a truer word ever written.

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