Mission accomplished, Richards prepares to bow out
Honda are to become 45 per cent shareholders in BAR in a move that will see a major management restructure at the team, including the departure of current boss David Richards.
Honda, already the team's engine suppliers, chassis development partner and sponsor, will now become an equity partner for the first time. Under the agreement, British American Tobacco will own 55 per cent and Honda 45 per cent of a new joint-venture company which will replace the existing BAR ownership structure.
"We're delighted Honda wants to increase its involvement in BAR which has gone from strength to strength this season, said Antonio Monteiro de Castro, Chief Operating Officer of British American Tobacco (BAT) and a director of BAR. We are particularly grateful to David Richards and Prodrive for helping to achieve this improvement and providing a springboard for the next phase of the team's development."
Takanobu Ito, Managing Director of Honda, commented: "This is a natural extension of our relationship with BAR and is an important step for both partners. The new commitment will further strengthen the structure for cooperation with BAR as we push forward with our Formula One challenge."
With BAR having just achieved their most successful season to date, the announcement also signals the conclusion of the consultancy agreement started in 2001 between Richards Prodrive company and BAT to restructure the teams management and put it in a position to challenge for the world championship.
"We were brought in by British American Tobacco to turn the team around and secure its long-term future and that is what we have done, said Richards. I am immensely proud of what Prodrive has achieved in a shorter time than anticipated. I believe that BAR Honda is now in a very healthy position to continue its pursuit of the World Championship. Obviously I and all at Prodrive will take a strong interest in the fortunes of the team in the future."
The succession planning put in place by Prodrive will see Nick Fry appointed as Chief Executive of BAR, while Geoff Willis continues as the team's Technical Director. A phased management transition is underway and should be completed by the end of the year. Richards will be providing support on various transitional issues until the end of February. Honda and Prodrive are also exploring opportunities for working together in the future.
As part of their involvement in the team, Honda will appoint directors to the board of BAR, and will add a number of key personnel to the 30 engineers who have been located at the team's Brackley headquarters for some time, under the joint chassis development programme. The day-to-day management and operation of the team are unaffected by the ownership restructure and will continue to function as before.