When Leyton House, a Japanese real estate company and lifestyle brand, bought its way into Formula 1, they did so by taking over the longstanding March team and rebranding it with turquoise paint. gorgeous Leyton House. However, within 5 years, Leyton House founder Akira Akagi was arrested for a financial scandal, and the blood of the March group was lost.
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History buffs of motorsport know how important March Engineering was to the trajectory of Formula 1. In 1969, founders Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd established Join forces to start building a Formula 3 chassis before quickly stepping into F1. In an era where F1 teams often manufacture their own racing machines in-house, March has instead made the chassis available for purchase, allowing many teams to buy their way into the sport. While chassis are not necessarily the pinnacle of technology, they are still competitive enough to sustain a viable business endeavor, largely because the chassis is cheap enough to fit within the budgets of the most demanding customers. small team.
That said, budget shortfalls and the divergent interests of the founders gradually led the 1970s manufacturer to be relegated to Formula 2 and IndyCar before March began to disintegrate. A lack of both funding and passion kept the team out of regular F1 competition until 1987, when it was lured back to the sport by Ivan Capelli and sponsor Leyton House.
Leyton House chairman Akira Akagi was looking for new avenues of brand marketing when he decided to develop his own racing team in 1986, and he started off with Japanese championships closer to home. Akagi had pinned his racing hopes on Akira Hagiwara, an immensely promising driver, only for Hagiwara to be killed in an early test session for a touring car.
That sent Akagi farther afield, to international events, as a way to scope out potential talent, and it was at a Formula 3000 event at Imola that he met Cesare Gariboldi, who served as manager for Ivan Capelli. Negotiations ensued, and with some Leyton House backing, Capelli competed in a partial Japanese Formula 2 season before Akagi offered him extra finances to take on European racing.
From Motorsport magazine:
Capelli recalls: “The man who introduced me to Mr. Akagi is now the big Bridgestone boss, Mr (Hiroshi) Yasukawa, who is following the F3000 in Europe.” Struggling for money to finish the season in Racing Genoa In March, Capelli was keen to run for Leyton House in Japan and earn some much-needed bonus: “I said to Mr. Akagi, ‘Okay, you’ll give me 30% of the bonus.’ After finishing second for him at Fuji, I went to his office and asked to check the amount, and when I realized it was 50%. So I gave him the money back and he said, ‘No, no, you can keep it.’ From the good feelings between us, we started talking about sponsoring my F3000, and then he gave me more money to continue to Europe”.
Capelli and his manager knew that Akagi had some money, and when he offered the driver $200,000 (or about $540,000 adjusted for inflation) to compete in a Japanese championship Elsewhere, the duo threw something even bigger: Formula 1.
“We still talk when we get to the airport,” says Capelli Motorsport magazinereferring to the end of his 1986 European racing season, “and finally at the airport we shook hands and Mr. Akagi said to me, ‘You’re in F1 and I’ll give you four million dollars! “
Gariboldi spent the 1986 season forming a relationship with Robin Herd, and the two began a revival together for Team March, which would be sponsored by Leyton House. However, by the first race of the 1987 season, things did not go as planned: the entire team was including 17 people, the Grand Prix car boasts a World Sports Car Championship-standard engine and its chassis is a modified F3000 chassis. The fact that Capelli scored a point in the 1987 Monaco Grand Prix is something of a shock.
The following year, however, was much more successful. Adrian Newey joined the team in August 1987, and the car he designed for 1988 – combined with the Judd engine – earned drivers Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin 22 points. Everything is good.
Then, in 1989, problems began to arise. In May, March sold its F1 team and F3000 car production rights to Akira Akagi of Leyton House. Cesare Gariboldi died, and many of March’s employees left. And the car that year was an absolute disaster thanks to the gearbox, as illustrated by Capelli finishing only 2 out of 16 races that year.
In 1990, then, Leyton House was the full owner of the team, and things got off to a bad start. The wind tunnel the team used was problematic, meaning Capelli and Gugelmin both failed to qualify or complete the first six races of the year. Newey was fired after making changes that ultimately turned the car’s fortunes – if only for the short term. Capelli finished second in France, and Gugelmin took a point to finish sixth in Belgium.
Leyton House Racing’s continued struggles in the second half of the season have a lot to do with the fact that it is running into financial problems. Akagi may have realized that running an F1 team was more expensive than intended, because he hired an accountant to help him manage a dwindling budget.
Are from Motorsport Magazine:
“Akagi is starting to have a hard time,” Newey said. “He is usury against the banks but must be seen as still in F1, because if he withdraws the banks will wonder why. He was playing a game of poker with the minimum possible cost, so he kept reducing the budget and bringing in an accountant (Simon Keeble). When Ian got meningitis, Keeble suddenly took over and that was really the beginning of the end – having an accountant running an F1 team was a disaster.”
Things finally came to a head as the disappointing 1991 season ended. In September, Akagi became involved in a financial scandal involving Fuji Bank in Japan and was quickly arrested, prompting the team to try to move on. In the last two races of the year, Capelli even took a step back to allow Karl Wendlinger to compete behind the wheel of his car, as the German driver brought in significant sponsorship from Mercedes.
Everything fell apart right after that. With the man making the money as Akagi, Leyton House Racing was sold to a consortium that included Akagi’s British representative, Ken Marrable, lawyer John Byfield and Dutch sports businessman Henry Vollenberg. The corporation renamed the team March, and they signed Wendlinger and the wealthy Paul Belmondo. When Wendlinger ran out of money, he was replaced by Jan Lammers. Belmondo was also substituted, with Emanuele Naspetti in his chair.
The group knew it was in trouble and tried to sell March to someone else in 1993, but a potential deal with a Swiss investment group stalled. So four days before the inaugural race of the season, March withdrew from F1, putting an end to the team’s long history in the sport.
Akagi, for her part, served decade jailed for fraud in connection with the funding of his racing efforts. After his release from prison, he founded an investment firm, which he ran until his death at the age of 73 in 2018.