Stunt Double - 1992 Andrea Moda C4B Judd

Taking the fall

1y ago

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The late 1980s were a turbulent time for the world of Formula One. Due to escalating power levels, danger, complexity and costs, the sport finally said goodbye to the monstrous 1.5L turbo engines that had taken hold of it over the course of the decade. Instead, the FIA reverted to a much simpler, safer and more cost-effective 3.5L naturally aspirated formula.

The new concept was tentatively introduced alongside restricted turbo engines in 1987, before finally becoming the norm in 1989. During that transitional period, several smaller teams broke into F1 with basic chassis and very little budget to spare. These teams were exclusively powered by the hastily conceived Cosworth DFZ V8, which traced its roots to the famous 3.0L DFV.

Nicola Larini in the Coloni FC187, Monza 1987.

Nicola Larini in the Coloni FC187, Monza 1987.

One of these new hopefuls was Scuderia Coloni. Founded by 1982 Italian Formula Three champion Enzo Coloni in 1983, the team immediately made a name for itself by claiming the title in 1984 with Ivan Capelli.

The success motivated a step up to Formula 3000 with Nicola Larini and Gabriele Tarquini in a year-old March 85B for 1986, but Coloni seemed out of its depth. Nevertheless, the regulation change in F1 promptly motivated Enzo to skip F3000 altogether the following year, instead taking Larini and the crude FC187 to the pinnacle of motorsport.

Gabriele Tarquini, Monaco 1988.

Gabriele Tarquini, Monaco 1988.

Two Grand Prix starts in 1987 at Monza and Jerez lead to a full season in 1988 with Gabriele Tarquini, but the small squad's struggles had only just begun. Coloni hadn't been the only team to notice the financially attractive regime change in F1, and the flurry of new entries was starting to overwhelm the paddock.

As a result, Tarquini was eventually forced to enter Pre-Qualifying. This extra session was held ahead of the actual qualifying session, and served to weed out the six slowest cars in order to help bring the number of entries down to the maximum of 26 starters.

Coloni's big break ostensibly came with a buyout by Subaru in 1990.

Coloni's big break ostensibly came with a buyout by Subaru in 1990.

Despite expanding to a two-car team for 1989, and even briefly being taken over by Japanese auto maker Subaru in 1990, Pre-Qualifying would remain Coloni's natural habitat for the vast majority of their Grand Prix career.

The outfit failed to qualify for a single race during 1990, and even failed to pre-qualify in every round of the 1991 season. That year, the team used the C4, essentially a fourth major update of the C3 which had debuted mid-1989.

The C4 was unable to make it through a single pre-qualifying session.

The C4 was unable to make it through a single pre-qualifying session.

Realizing his days were numbered, Enzo Coloni appealed to Lamborghini, trying to trigger a merger with the sportscar firm's orphaned Team Modena operation in a very roundabout way. This inevitably failed, but Coloni lucked out by finding a buyer anyway.

Andrea Sassetti with Bernie Ecclestone.

Andrea Sassetti with Bernie Ecclestone.

In September of 1991, Enzo Coloni transferred ownership of Coloni Racing to Italian shoe designer Andrea Sassetti for the sum of eight million dollars. Sassetti was the proprietor of a prestigious women's shoes brand by the name of Andrea Moda, and wanted to combine his passion for shoes with his love of motorsport.

Despite finalizing the transaction three rounds before the end of the 1991 season, the team kept competing as Coloni to appease sponsors. With this in mind, the re-branding was postponed to 1992.

Sassetti's new team was unsurprisingly named after his shoe company, and moved into the former Coloni facility in the small town of Passignano sul Trasimeno. The operation was still small, with only forty people on staff.

Looking to complete his team with seemingly as little effort as was humanly possible, Andrea Sassetti recruited a mechanic and a truck driver from his shoe company. However, he had much bigger problems.

The S921 took too long for Andrea Moda.

The S921 took too long for Andrea Moda.

Shortly after acquiring Coloni, Andrea Sassetti had secured the rights to a chassis designed by Nick Wirth's Simtek organization. Simtek had originally drawn up the car in late 1990 for BMW, which was looking into a possible return to the sport. BMW pulled out before a single chassis had been built however, allowing Andrea Moda to make use of the stillborn machine.

However, progress on finalizing the design for 1992 regulations was rather slow, forcing Sassetti to seek out an alternative to avoid paying a fine to FOM for missing a Grand Prix. To this end, he decided to try and update the Coloni C4 chassis sitting around the shop.

Surplus Dallara F191 parts were used to upgrade the outdated Coloni.

Surplus Dallara F191 parts were used to upgrade the outdated Coloni.

At the top of Sassetti's list was a more powerful engine. This was found with John Judd's Engine Developments, which was already attached to the team as supplier for the upcoming S921. Judd offered a batch of GV V10 engines from the Dallara F191, left over due to the BMS Scuderia Italia team switching to Ferrari engines for 1992.

With 660 horsepower at 13.500 rpm, the V10 represented a 40 horsepower increase over the C4's Cosworth DFR V8. Along with the engine, the Dallara's rear suspension assembly and transverse six-speed semi-automatic transmission were also used to make the engine swap that much easier.

Andrea Sassetti and Alex Caffi with the C4B.

Andrea Sassetti and Alex Caffi with the C4B.

The collected parts and the C4 were then sent to the University of Perugia, 30 kilometers from the Andrea Moda factory. Under the direction of engineer Paul Burgess, the Dallara parts were grafted to the Coloni chassis by engineering students enrolled at the university during January of 1992.

The transplant was successful, but with a weight of 530 kg (1170 lbs) was about 25 kg (55 lbs) overweight. Ironically, the Judd engine was lighter than the Cosworth by exactly the same amount. Regardless of the weight issues, the car was ready for a shakedown test at Misano by former Osella, BMS Scuderia Italia, Arrows and Footwork driver Alex Caffi.

With a single chassis finished, Andrea Moda Formula took to the opening round of the 1992 season. After a seven year absence, Formula One returned to South Africa on the newly remodeled Kyalami Circuit. Being a new track, all teams were granted an exploratory practice session on Thursday morning.

Alex Caffi was given the honor of taking the C4B out onto a Grand Prix circuit for the first time. His teammate, 1987 Italian F3 Champion and 1991 Coloni driver Enrico Bertaggia, did not take part in the session as there was only one complete chassis present. Caffi didn't profit from having a working car for very long either, as a battery issue saw him slow after barely half a lap.

Enrico Bertaggia remained on the sidelines in Kyalami.

Enrico Bertaggia remained on the sidelines in Kyalami.

Ahead of the traditional Pre-Qualifying session, the FIA stewards commenced a technical inspection of the cars present. Soon enough, they found a rather pressing issue with Andrea Moda's machine. The stewards concluded the C4B was constructed by a different company than Andrea Moda's entry suggested.

Prior to the start of the season, Andrea Sassetti had talked his way around paying the $100,000 deposit for new teams by arguing his team was simply a continuation of the existing Coloni outfit. However, since the C4B was significantly different and built by a different entity to the old Coloni team, the FIA could counter this argument.

Given the fact the team had possession of a chassis built by a different entity, it could not be considered as a continuation of Coloni Racing. And because they were not a continuation, they were liable to pay the entry fee for the 1992 season. Since the fee hadn't been paid, the team was excluded from the rest of the Grand Prix weekend and the World Championship as a whole.

Additionally, the convoluted structure of using an updated car partly built by a different team meant Andrea Moda was also in violation of the Concorde Agreement. With Coloni's intellectual property present in the forward half of the car, it wasn't considered an original chassis, a requirement for any team wishing to take part in the sport.

Sassetti stood his ground and reiterated his argument, claiming to have bought Coloni's cars and equipment with the intent to continue running the existing team. Again the FIA hit back, stating that even if this was true, Sassetti had bought Coloni's assets, but not its right to participate in the World Championship.

The impasse was finally resolved after Andrea Sassetti begrudgingly agreed to pay the entry fee, and agreed to a condition set by the FIA to use an original chassis for the rest of the season. After receiving this news, he pressed Simtek to speed up development on the S921, hoping to be able to use it at the second round in Mexico.

And with that, the unique and highly controversial Andrea Moda C4B ended its extremely short career. Though it never even took part in an official Grand Prix practice session, the car would kickstart one of the most storied and infamously terrible Formula One teams in modern history.

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