Following its enforced withdrawal from Formula 1, Manor Racing’s assets were split up and sold off
The story began amid a sonic frenzy, in the pit garages at the Sakhir International Circuit ahead of the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix. While the established teams went about their business with an accustomed sense of calm at the dawn of a new Formula 1 campaign, two of three newcomers – Hispania Racing (HRT) and Virgin Racing – were still in the final stages of trying to have two cars ready to run. At Virgin, components were still being filed to fit and everybody from junior mechanics to team principal John Booth had their sleeves rolled up, mucking in to make sure Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi would have cars to drive the following day.
As, indeed, they did.
That was a victory of sorts, but none of the three new teams would be long-term F1 fixtures. Cash-strapped HRT was first to depart, dissolved at the end of 2012. Lotus Racing became Team Lotus, then Caterham, but folded at the end of 2014. Virgin morphed into Marussia and looked set to disappear at the same time as Caterham, having missed the final three races of the year, but was then reborn with fresh investment and competed in 2015 before becoming Manor F1. In its final guise, it survived for a single season before F1’s financial realities kicked in again – this time for good. Of the three teams that made their debuts in 2010, this was the only one to record any points finishes courtesy of Jules Bianchi at Monaco in 2014 and Pascal Wehrlein who managed a single point by finishing tenth in Austria last year.
In January this year, Manor’s 200-odd staff were told the team was being wound up. The remaining assets were sold in an on-line auction and viewing took place at the former Manor F1 factory in Chalker Way, Banbury, on May 9/10. Bidding closed six days later.
The lots included a windtunnel model of the stillborn 2017 Manor challenger, several F1 steering wheels, a wide array of parts from 2014-2016 cars (including three monocoques, more than 200 wheel rims, assorted suspension components, engine covers and front/rear wings – more than enough stuff, indeed, to construct your own complete rolling chassis). You could also have bought a pair of size 42 racing boots, supplied to former reserve driver Jordan King or a bottomless pit of branded T-shirts.
“There was no great sense of emotion,” says Motor Sport photographer Lyndon McNeil, who took the accompanying images, “but then modern racing premises always tend towards the clinical. There weren’t all that many people around, either – perhaps 15 or so at its busiest.
“The most poignant sight was probably a 2017 year planner, still on the wall with Formula 1’s mandatory two-week August holiday blocked off… but almost nothing else written on it.”
In fact there was little sign that the fire sale was any more successful than the team. Unlike most auctions which are keen to trumpet their sales results Gordon Brothers, the company that organised the Manor auction, didn’t return calls from Motor Sport, while the online sale appeared lacklustre at best.
The real tragedy is that it almost never came to this. That solitary point Wehrlein scored in Austria might have been enough to secure Manor’s future, had not tail-end rival Sauber scored two during the penultimate race of the campaign in Brazil. Manor’s final owner Stephen Fitzpatrick admitted to staff that a one-place drop in the championship for constructors was the final straw as it took away a vital injection of prize money.