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How a talking fake machine to predict the stock market became a formula 1 sponsor

Bertrand Gachot driving the 37th Moneytron Onyx V8 during the 1989 French Grand Prix.

Bertrand Gachot driving the 37th Moneytron Onyx V8 during the 1989 French Grand Prix.
image: Pascal Rondeau (beautiful pictures)

When Jean-Pierre Van Rossem launched his Moneytron machine, he did so with a big statement: This is a supercomputer that can accurately predict the stock market and beat the capitalist system. Invest your hard-earned dollars in Moneytron, he says, and you will become infinitely rich. With his Moneytron earnings, Van Rossem became the majority owner of the Onyx Formula 1 team in 1989 – and then everything fell apart.

(Editor’s Note: This week marks the release Racing with abundant energy: How Rogue sponsors won formula 1 to go by Elizabeth Blackstock and Alanis King. To celebrate a book that started as a blog on Jalopnik, the Blackstock co-author is covering the history of some of F1’s other dubious sponsors. These donors are mentioned in the book, but not in depth. Racing with abundant energy available through McFarland, Amazon, Burnedand Eurospan for international buyers.)

If Jean-Pierre Van Rossem’s Moneytron machine sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is, and there are plenty of red signs that should be telling potential investors that this is. is the case. As a star economics student at Belgium’s Ghent University, Van Rossem learned to scam the system by charging other students money to write their dissertations, Moneyweek’s report. He is also a self-described Marxist who has continued to study market movements under the Nobel Prize-winning Lawrence Klein.

Don’t let his economic education fool you; Van Rossem is nothing more than a stubborn financier. Instead, he’s the kind of guy who has made a name for himself in the world by publishing a guide to over 1,000 Belgian brothels (accompanied by Michelin’s guide style rankings for cleanliness, value, and value). coins and more, according to his obituary above Independence). He is also said to have built a cold coffin to house his second wife, who is believed to have died by suicide after he met another woman, so he could keep her back and see her again before she dies.

“The spark has gone out of the idea,” Time report“When someone cuts power to the tomb.”

Of course, if his escapades don’t make you understand that this is a man of eclectic taste, maybe his looks may have given that away:

Jean-Pierre Van Rossem en Wilfried Hendrickx van Humo maken ruzie

As you can imagine, none other than the real Van Rossem saw Moneytron machines have a purpose; it was locked in a room where only Van Rossem kept the keys. But people still trust this charismatic man, and enough wealthy people have entrusted him with their money that, in 1989, he claimed to be managing more than $7 billion in assets – including his own. from the Belgian royal family.

With all that money, Van Rossem invested first in a Formula 3000 team, then brought his sponsorship to Formula 1 with the Onyx team in the 1989 season thanks to driver Bertrand Gachot.

Prior to being sponsored by Moneytron, Onyx was quite successful in the junior F3000, scoring seven wins over a three-year term and finishing second in the 1987 championship standings.

In one Autosport obituary for Van Rossem, Onyx boss Mike Earl said he was “sad to hear of his passing, because without him we probably wouldn’t have made it to F1. He’s pompous and unpredictable, but certainly very smart and ultimately a nice guy if you sit with him away from the limelight. “

After the 1987 F3000 season, Onyx began preparations for inclusion in F1. Paul Shakespeare bought a majority stake in the team in late 1988 to provide them with the money needed to continue developing a car; Sponsorships from Marlboro and Moneytron have bolstered the team’s finances.

But being a major sponsor wasn’t good enough for Van Rossem; soon after, he bought Shakespeare stock, which made he majority owner. With his money, young French driver Bertrand Gachot, who is paired with reliable veteran Stefan Johansson. By all accounts, the Onyx Grand Prix was set to become a hit.

Unfortunately, the car only has only was prepared to ship for the inaugural Brazilian Grand Prix of 1989, meaning there was no time for pre-season testing. As a result, the first six races of the season were something of a disaster; between failing to qualify first, retiring and being disqualified, it took until the French Grand Prix in July for both drivers to finish a race, with Johansson scoring for his fifth place. An end-of-season podium in Portugal was the team’s only high point of the season. It’s not exactly a great debut for a brand new team, but Onyx is confident that, despite the poor results, they’re still making progress.

That is, until Van Rossem started receiving really luxury. Before the fourth race of the season in Phoenix, Arizona, Van Rossem purchased a $20 million Gulfstream IV business jet. Then, five races later, the press reported that he was interested in spending $40 million to finance Porsche’s F1 engine project; He then went on Belgian television to say that, if the Porsche deal doesn’t work out, he will quit Formula 1 – a sport that Van Rossem frequently has to complain about.

Then Van Rossem did the last thing fake password: He criticizes Formula 1 management. While Van Rossem claims that he does not actually told a Belgian newspaper that Bernie Ecclestone was a Mafia boss or FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre was a Nazi, Ecclestone banning Van Rossem from F1 was enough.

The once-promising team began to fall apart as the season drew to a close and Van Rossem became increasingly stingy with his finances. Team leaders Mike Earle and Jo Chamberlain have both left the team, and Van Rossem, unable to secure an engine deal with Porsche or Honda, withdrew from the sport before the 1990 season.

Without their rich benefactor, Onyx began to decline. Half of the team was bought by former driver Peter Moteverdi, with Karl Foitek and Brune Frei split equally between the other half. The new owners have begun the slow task of paying the bills from last season to buy things like tires for 1990. Not much money was poured into actually developing the car.

But things continued to fall apart. Onyx hired Foitek’s son Gregor as driver to replace Stefan Johansson after two races; In the opening round, Johansson destroyed two chassis, and after the replacement was completed, he sued Onyx for breach of contract. Amid rumors of broken parts, poor management and lack of funding, Onyx ranked after the 10th race of the season, the Hungarian Grand Prix.

After selling off his shares, Van Rossem disappeared back to Belgium, where he was jailed for fraud after a check for $50 million was bounced. He was sentenced to five years in prison, noting at sentencing that, “The good news is that there will be few capitalists in the world, the bad news is that he is me.”

However, after serving just one year in prison, the Belgian Parliament delayed his sentence because, amazingly, Van Rossem founded his own political party (Radical Transfiguration and Fighters). society for a more honest society; in Flemish, the acronym is ROSSEM) and managed to get elected to Parliament. The country allowed congressional immunity, so Van Rossem was allowed to run freely.

Knowing he was serving a prison sentence at the end of his term as head of his anti-liberal party, Van Rossem published his brothel guidebook and interrupted the congressional swearing-in ceremony. by shouting, “Long live the European Republic”, an anti-monarchy cry. aimed at King Albert II of Belgium.

Van Rossem was eventually back in prison, serving a sentence in time for charges of forgery, money laundering, tax evasion and fraud. Inside, he wrote his autobiography and continued to be one of Belgium’s most notable figures until his death in 2018 at the age of 73.

Despite only competing for a year in Formula 1, Jean-Pierre Van Rossem created a ripple effect that destroyed the entire Onyx Grand Prix team. The promise the team made in 1989 has been effectively erased thanks to the benefactor who brought them to F1 in the first place, leaving the team and their motorsports board disappointed, devastated and bored. With nothing worth selling, Onyx promises a time to die an embarrassing death while Van Rossem goes on to live a rich – and ludicrous – life.


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