Applause Break - 1993 Bravo S931 Judd
When the curtain falls way too soon
At the dawn of the 1990s, the world of Formula One had seen an explosion of private entries. The banishment of the complicated, fragile and hugely expensive turbo engines in favor of relatively simple 3.5 liter naturally aspirated engines had opened the door for smaller outfits to enter the pinnacle of motorsport.
The change saw F1 move back to the "kit-car" philosophy of the 1970's: fabricate a chassis, lease a Cosworth engine and Hewland gearbox, fix some wings to it, and off you go. With the 3.5L formula, the sport had once again brought power to the masses.
The Cosworth DFZ and DFR democratized power in the 3.5L era.
A lesser-funded entries eventually saw numbers rise well beyond the available number of grid spots, forcing the creation of a hellish limbo known as pre-qualifying. There, the wheat would be separated from the chaff in preparation for the genuine qualifying session.
The Friday morning session became the fierce battlegrounds for fledgling teams hoping to at least make the grid, let alone finish in a respectable position. PQ became dominated by French, British and Italian teams, but somewhere in between those countries, a new challenger was sharpening its knives.
Former Minardi-driver Adrian Campos was one of the figureheads behind the new team.
That young upstart was Escuderia Bravo F1 España, shortened to Bravo F1 to avoid tongue injuries for foreign reporters.
Headed by former Lola F3000 team manager Jean-Frabcncois Mosnier and former F1-driver Adrian Campos, the outfit aimed to be Spain's first ever Formula 1 team. This was despite most of the personnel being British, and the team actually being registered under a British license.
The reasoning for this was very simple, according to Mosnier: "I chose Spain because the country has nothing else like it and it was thus ideal when raising support. There are too many teams in Britain and Italy. Although we will be based in Spain, most of the personnel will be British".
Bravo's story had its origins with another company starting with B.
This was all well and good, but to compete at the highest level, Bravo needed more than a unique location and the goodwill of its people. It needed a car. Despite funding from a consortium of enthusiastic Spanish businessmen, Spanish company ElMondo and some minor backing from the government, Bravo's budget was only $3 million. Clearly then, they needed outside help.
Unable to design their own car, Mosnier and Campos turned to Nick Wirth of Simtek Research. Wirth had started out in the sport as an aerodynamicist for March Engineering, but elected to found his own company in 1989, supported by March-founder and future FIA-president Max Mosley.
Simtek hit the ground running: just a year into its existence the company secured a contract from none other than BMW to create a preliminary design for a planned works F1-entry. Wirth duly delivered, penning the neat and tidy S192.
The Andrea Moda S921 formed the base for Bravo F1's new machine.
Sadly, BMW backed out of the project soon after, leaving Simtek with an all but finished, but essentially useless design. As a consolation prize, the Bavarian brand gave Simtek's engineers a job running factory M3 Sport Evolutions during the 1991 DTM season.
Not content on having the plans for F1-machine sit around unused, Nick Wirth eventually sold off the rights to the S192 to the controversial Andrea Moda team. Run by volatile Italian shoe salesman Andrea Sassetti, the outfit had been forced to run a dedicated design by the FIA after a dispute over their right to take part with a modified Coloni C4-chassis.
After some minor updates and modifications, the would-be BMW was revived as the Andrea Moda S921. The car proved generally uncompetitive under the chaotic direction of the team, despite being a decent design fitted with a powerful Judd GV V10. Brazilian veteran Roberto Moreno eventually took responsibility for the car's one and only grid start at Monaco, which ended in retirement following an engine failure on lap 11.
The Bravo S931 was in essence a second update of the BMW original.
As his design had never reached its potential in the hands of madman Sassetti, Wirth was eager to give the S192 a third chance with Bravo F1. In October of 1992, work began on two examples of the S931.
Understandably, the new cars leaned heavily on the principles of the S921. Despite this, Nick Wirth was quick to claim the cars shared no mechanical components. After all, any clear association with the disgraced Andrea Moda squad would potentially put his company in disrepute.
After flirting with Mugen-Honda, Hart and even Lamborghini, the engine supplier turned out to be the same as well. Interestingly though, the Judd engine was reported to be a V8, indicating Bravo had chosen the older and weaker EV over the GV V10.
The Judd EV V8 dated back to 1989.
Escuderia Bravo F1 España announced its plans to enter the 1993 season in November of 1992. However, at this point no chassis had been completed, nor had any drivers been signed.
Jean-Francois Mosnier had eyed the services of the experienced Gabriele Tarquini, whom he had met in the Italian Touring Car Championship the year prior. Unfortunately, the Italian signed for the works Alfa Romeo BTCC-team instead.
Sadly, Mosnier would never see his dream realized. Two weeks after the announcement, he succumbed to the effects of a highly aggressive variant of cancer. Jean-Francois Mosnier was just 46 years old.
Jordi Gene joined the team in December.
Mornier's death shook the already fragile team to its core, but Adrian Campos and his investors decided to carry on regardless. After considering Nicola Larini, Ivan Arias, Luca Badoer and even Damon Hill, the team signed its first driver in December: Jordi Gené. As an upcoming Spanish talent who had just finished fifth in F3000, the 22-year old fit the bill perfectly.
Unfortunately, the revamped Bravo S931 did not. Shortly after Jordi stood smiling next to a blacked-out scale model, the car failed the mandatory FIA crash tests. With money tighter than ever in the wake of Mosnier's passing, the team was unable to commission improvements to further chassis.
Rumors of a merger between Bravo F1 and fellow struggling teams Larrousse and March had been circulating ever since news of Mosnier's death had broken, but Adrian Campos held fast. In January 1993 the team maintained the year would be spent testing its car, with the end goal being a single entry for Gené in 1994.
Jordi Gene testing for Benetton, 1993.
With the F1-plans failing to materialize, Bravo applied for entry to the 1993 International Formula 3000 season instead, promising a Reynard 92D chassis for Gené. When this venture also fell apart, Jordi was offered a test at Benetton by team owner Tom Walkinshaw as a favor. He wasn't picked up for the F1 team, but found a home with Walkinshaw's F3000-squad instead.
Meanwhile, what was left of Escuderia Bravo F1 España quickly disintegrated. The leftovers were eventually picked back up by Nick Wirth, who immediately started work on yet another evolution of the by then three year old BMW-design.
The Simtek S931 was certainly striking, but never made it to the grid.
This fourth version of the S192 sported eye-catching fairings covering the front suspension, and a Benetton-style raised nose. Both elements would however disappear when it came time to create the final version. Without fairings and with a droopy, much lower nose, the Simtek S941 would finally bring the old Beemer back to the grid.
The Simtek S941 succeeded where the S921 and S931 failed: finishing an F1-season.
Founder Adrian Campos would spend the years following the Bravo F1 debacle founding Campos Racing, an ultimately successful outfit in single seater feeder series. In the meantime, he took it upon himself to manage a smalltime Spanish F1-hopeful by the name of Fernando Alonso.
Adrian Campos and Fernando Alonso in the early years.
Aside from his role as Alonso's manager, Campos would stay relatively far away from the world of Formula One for nearly two decades. However, the desire to start the first Spanish F1 team was still very much alive.
What might have been.
In 2009, he began preparing his second attempt as Formula One relaxed its entry procedures. For 2010, his goal was to start the F1 season as team principal of Campos Meta 1. After seventeen years, he would finally see his dream come true. One way or another.