1998 Minardi M198
Minardi was founded in 1979 by Giancarlo Minardi as an Italian race team and constructor. The Minardi team got its start in Formula 2 beginning in 1980. By 1985 Minardi entered Formula 1. Giancarlo Minardi would remain involved with the team until 2000 when it was sold to Australian businessman Paul Stoddart who renamed the team European Minardi. The team was subsequently purchased by Red Bull GmbH in 2005 and was renamed Scuderia Toro Rosso for the 2006 season. At the time of its sale, the Minardi F1 team had competed in its 30th year of Formula 1, an impressive accomplishment. While the team never secured the coveted constructor’s championship, it did achieve several top ten individual race finishes, and offered a career starting point for several drivers that would later go on to be successful, most notably, Fernando Alonso and Mark Weber. The Minardi team’s 676 total race entries currently ranks it 10th all time among Formula 1 constructors, past and present.
By the 1997 Formula 1 season, Minardi had their entries falling further and further behind the pack. They were one of just three teams in Formula 1 still using V-8 powered cars, while the rest of the field were running more powerful V-10s. Development began on the next generation Minardi, the M198. The new car for the 1998 season solved Minardi’s power issues with the M198 powered by a Ford JD Zetec-R V-10 engine, designed and manufactured by legendary engine builder Cosworth. The JD variant of the Zetec-R put out an impressive 710 hp at 15,000 rpm. The engine was backed by a Minardi six-speed longitudinal sequential semi-automatic gearbox and the M198s were fitted with double-wishbone front and rear suspension, pushrods with coaxial spring and dampers, and torsion bars were on both the front and rear of the suspension.
This example, chassis no. M198-01, is the first M198 built, constructed in November 1997, for use in Fondmetal Minardi’s 1998 Formula 1 season. It was driven by Fondmetal Minardi’s lead driver, Shinji Nakano, who moved over following the 1997 season from Prost Gauloises Blondes. For the 1998 Formula 1 season, M198-01 campaigned under the number 22, finished in a blue and white livery adorned with Fondmetal, Roces, and Avex Group primary sponsorships. Other minor sponsors included Doimo, Ventura, Telecom, Bossini, Visa, Beta Tools, and Climatron. Nakano raced M198-01 in the first three races of the 1998 Formula 1 season, making its debut at the Australian Grand Prix held at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit. There Nakano qualified in 22nd position, but unfortunately retired on lap 8 due to driveshaft failure. The next appearance was at the Brazilian Grand Prix held at Interlagos. There Nakano qualified in 18th position, but retired early in the race, spinning out on under heavy breaking going into turn one after completing just three laps. The final outing for M198-01 was the Argentine Grand Prix held at the Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez circuit, in Buenos Aires. There Nakano qualified in 19th position, finishing the race in 13th place.
Following the 1998 season, M198-01 was used as a show car by Fondmetal Minardi and the M198 livery was updated to the 1999 Fondmetal Minardi car number 20 M01 livery, finished in silver and blue with Telefónica primary sponsorship. M198-01 remained with the team until 2001, when it was sold at the Minardi auction to a production company, who used the car as a static display and film prop.
In 2011, Graham North purchased M198-01 from the production company and employed Tour-De-Force-Engineering (TDF) to recommission this M198 so that it could race once more. TDF contacted the original owner of the Minardi team, Giancarlo Minardi to purchase all the spares Minardi had from when the team was operational. M198-01 was rebuilt over a period of 18 months, where the car was fully stripped, all suspension components were crack-tested and replaced where necessary. The Ford V-10 JD Zetec-R engine was rebuilt by Dick Langford of LPE and was fitted with uprated components. The JD programme is still operational and spares for these engines are said to still be available for purchase on the open market.
The car was subsequently used sparingly, completing three laps at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit during the 2014 Festival Italia; driven 10 laps at Blyton in October 2014; and three laps at Spa prior to Formula 1 qualifying for the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix.
M198-01 was stripped back by TDF in late 2019, leaving only the engine and chassis mated, all the components were removed, coated if necessary and visually inspected. Certain major components were sent to Comptech Engineering Ltd for testing in January 2020 and a document was issued, certifying that the parts were not defective. M198-01 was then re-assembled, with attention taken to ensure it was at running specification, spark plugs, various seals and hardware were replaced where necessary. A report on file issued by TDF in February 2021 reflects work carried out on M198-01.
Use under current ownership includes attendance at Donnington on 10 August 2021, as part of the Ignition GP historic Formula 1 static display for the Michelin Supercar Drivers Secret meet.
Today, M198-01 remains in the Minardi M01 livery, a change Minardi made themselves in period following the car’s retirement from racing and transition to promotional use. The engine, gearbox and running gear remain period-correct and the car retains the STEP6 electronics, hydraulics, air system and other key components.
Like many former race cars, M198-01 is accompanied by a host of spare parts. The list is highlighted by dampers, a steering column, four sets of wheels (less tyres), spare gearbox, body panels, spare floor, radiators, and driveshafts. A full list of included spares is available upon request.
Keyword Search Terms:Fondmetal Minardi, Grand Prix, Shinji Nakano
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