US team owners buy Cosworth
Legendary engine firm will remain in UK and in Formula One
After a month of rumour, Ford has finally sold Cosworth Racing, one of motorsport’s most famous names, to Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe, co-owners of the Champ Car World Series. They bought the company after making guarantees worth £30m about its future. The purchase brings to an end a 35-year partnership between Cosworth and Ford in grands prix.
Ford rejected a rival offer from IRL IndyCar team owner Chip Ganassi even though his figure was higher. Ford vice-president Richard Parry-Jones said that “a good future for our employees was a critical element of our criteria. We gave all the serious offers our consideration, and on balance we found that the Kalkhoven/Forsythe bid was the one to go for.”
The Champ Car team owners convinced Ford management that their business plan would offer good security for Cosworth employees, including the existing management structure. The guarantees ensure that employment conditions will remain unchanged for a three-year period, as US takeover laws require.
Kalkhoven also promised to keep Cosworth in Formula One, confirming that both Minardi and the new Red Bull team, also recently sold by Ford, would be powered by its engines during the 2005 season.
Cosworth’s supply programme for the Champ Car series will continue, but Kalkhoven also hinted at new projects in lesser single-seater ‘ladder’ series in the USA, and in the marine market.
Cosworth was founded in 1958 by ex-Lotus employees Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth, and began by tuning Ford engines for racing. In 1967 came the most famous and successful F1 power unit of all, the legendary DFV, which dominated the grid for 15 years and notched up 155 grand prix victories; the Indy version, the DFX, took 151 wins and 10 Indianapolis 500 victories.
Duckworth said: “The new owners seem to be the right type — they’re self-made men. We achieved astonishing things in the days of racing entrepreneurs, but after my time the company fell into the hands of professional managers, and that’s bad news for a specialist firm.”
Dick Scammell, who joined the firm in 1972 and went on to become its MD, told Motor Sport: “I am very pleased to see it go to someone who is actually interested in motorsport. I’d like to see Cosworth back where it belongs — at the front of the field, not only in Formula One but other areas, too. I still feel proud when a Cosworth engine wins.”
Fact File — The new owners
Gerald Forsythe: US industrialist who first ran a car at Indy in 1983. Returned in ’93 as a team owner, winning CART title with Paul Tracy. Expanded his interests to circuits, including Britain’s Rockingham oval, and event promotion. Co-founded Open Wheel Racing Series to take over CART.
Kevin Kalkhoven: Australian venture capitalist who made millions in the 1990’s through industrial lasers. Founded a Champ Car team, then, with Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi, bought the troubled CART organization in ’04, saving the series.