Pacific learns fax of life
Having failed to make the grid since last June, Pacific Team lotus not only started the Brazilian Grand Prix but finished it!
Keith Wiggins arrived home from Brazil to find that it wasn’t only his team which had been working hard. Its fax machine had been fully employed too.
The rain forest hasn’t faced imminent threat from the amount of paper devoured in the form of congratulations flooding in to Pacific since its entry to Formula One. But one or two saplings might be quivering after the response to its first finish in over 12 months of trying.
The rest of the world reacted as if it expected the champagne corks to be popping down the ‘unfashionable’ end of the pit lane, but Pacific boss Keith Wiggins looked distinctly underwhelmed by the enormity of the feat. Having won championships at every level his team has ever contested, he is not in the habit of celebrating a car finishing seventh. Six laps down, at that.
“I suppose you go back a bit into your old stride,” he says, “but that’s something we should have done a long time ago, so I didn’t take it as any great achievement. For sure it was a milestone for everybody outside, and considering that the car was brand new, it was an achievement. But I just thought that’s what we should have done anyway; it’s taken too long to do it.”
It wasn’t the most glamorous of runs, for F1 rookie Andrea Montermini struggled for much of the race with a broken floor on his PR02. But it was quite a contrast to Pacific’s arrival in Brazil for its first F1 race, 12 months earlier. Then, the team hadn’t seen the circuit, the car hadn’t seen the wind tunnel and, fortunately, the customs men hadn’t seen the substantial bits of cars arriving late in team members’ hand luggage!
This time around it arrived with less testing still, but in the PR02 had a vastly improved car.
“We ought to be finishing anyway,” reasons Wiggins, “but under the circumstances it just proves our faith in the design team. Last year we knew that we couldn’t expect much else. It just proves what we say if we get the money behind us, we can do it.
“We all knew what it took, and we knew last year we didn’t have it. This year we went to Brazil with the knowledge that we had built our own car and that we had a technical structure which gave us a lot more confidence. But you always want more.”
Ninth on the track, Montermini got more: he was fleetingly promoted to the dizzy heights of seventh place by the two exclusions. The result ensures that Pacific can now base its sponsorship appeal on something more substantial than a sympathy vote.
“It’s everything really,” says Wiggins. “Obviously last year we suffered, and I think sponsors hung on a bit because they knew our situation. But there’s no doubt that you can’t survive like that for long. Performance is related to finance.
“Now we’ve got to make sure that we get two cars to the finish. You’ve got to remember that while everyone is with us now, you’re still only as good as your last race…”
His cautious approach proved well-founded. In Argentina neither car made it beyond the first corner.