Emanuele Pirro never so much as laid eyes on the car he was meant to drive in 1987, let alone sat in it. But the Megatron-engined Benetton B186 in which he should have made his GP debut did exist, and for much of the summer looked as though it would reintroduce the privateer to F1.
The project was the brainchild of the Japanese owner of the British-based Middlebridge Racing squad, Kohji Nakauchi. Ex-RAM team boss John Macdonald was running Mark Blundell and Paul Warwick under the Middlebridge banner in FF2000, but his paymaster wanted to go F1.
Two B186s arrived in 25 crates and were built up around the same Megatron-badged BMW engines used by Arrows that year. Sponsorship from Italian fashion house Trussardi was secured and a plan hatched for the BMW-contracted Pirro to contest five end-of-season grands prix.
Through the summer, however, the car’s debut was repeatedly delayed.
Exactly why it never raced isn’t clear. Macdonald insists that had all the teams given their consent, the rule prohibiting privateers wouldn’t have been an issue. He maintains that it was Arrows who refused to sign up to the deal. But reports suggest that FISA invoked its non-privateer deal, even though the car would have been entered by Benetton. By 1987, they had switched to Ford engines and F1 rules prohibited any one team from running different engines at one time. Pirro, meanwhile, was told the idea of expanding the grid from 26 to 27 places at a time when everyone qualified was rejected on safety grounds.
Take your pick.