March Engineering has been contracted by Alfa Romeo to supply it with chassis for an entry into the CART/Indycar World Series, in addition to the Porsche project on which March is also working.
In the deal with the German manufacturer, Gordon Coppuck is designing at the Bicester drawing office a chassis which will be built by the project’s own self-standing team, and used exclusively by Porsche.
The arrangement with Alfa Romeo is different in that the Italian company is buying “off-the-shelf” March chassis which will be modified to accept the powerful new turbocharged 2.65-litre Alfa engine.
Initially a March 88C will be used for evaluation of this unit at the Fiat Tech Centre. This will be followed in April by a test in one of the 1989 chassis, designated 89CE, which is the product of a team headed by former Tyrrell designer Maurice Philippe and based at Ralt Racing’s former premises in Weybridge, Surrey.
Entrant for the car is Alex Morales Racing which has already tested a March-Cosworth at the test-track in Italy to set a gauge by which the Alfa-engined car can be measured. Ex-Formula One driver Roberto Guerrero has been recruited as driver with the intention of giving the car a baptism of fire at the famous Indianapolis 500 race in May.
This good news is in stark contrast to the March Group’s financial situation. Following the publication of its annual accounts, which showed a pre-tax loss of £4,500,000 to the end of October 1988, shares slumped to a record low of 65p before being suspended on January 5. On resumption of trading, they slipped even lower to 52p, a drop of 68p from when the company went public two years ago.
Japanese businessman Akira Akagi has come to the the shareholders’ rescue, offering 50p a share for those who wish to get out now, though this does not apply to the 41.5% owned by Robin Herd. At this figure, valuation of the company is therefore £7,460,000.
If Akagi is able to add to the 20% he already owns and take effective control of the company, he is expected to inject a further 5,000,000 into the group. Lest there be any fear that this involvement will dilute the group’s involvement in racing car engineering and manufacture, it should be noted that his Leyton House group already sponsors the Formula One team and owns the Formula 3000 operation.
1988 was a relatively barren year for March in both Formula 3000 and CART racing, increased competition from both Reynard and Lola adversely affecting orders for this year’s cars, which in part explains the manufacturer’s financial difficulties.