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  Monday, 2 December, 2002, 11:15 GMT
Bell tolls for F1's failures
The Arrows team has lost its fight for F1 survival

As Arrows disappear into the abyss, two eras appear to be coming to an end in Formula One.

Not only has the book closed on Arrows' painful record as the least successful team in F1 history, but team owner Tom Walkinshaw is also out - at least for now.

And in many ways, Walkinshaw's failure is more surprising than that of the team he took over in 1996.

As Arrows' new owner, the Scot promised to make them a world championship contender within three years.

If many thought the timescale was optimistic, few doubted Walkinshaw would achieve his aims eventually.

Arrows had had only brief glimpses of success since they were founded in 1978.

Riccardo Patrese led the team's second race, in South Africa, and the Italian could have won in both Long Beach and Monaco three years later had his car not failed.

But Walkinshaw arrived in F1 with a reputation, burnished by success in virtually every motorsport category in which his teams had competed.

Riccardo Patrese led the 1981 Long Beach Grand Prix before retiring
Arrows were at their most competitive in 1981
He had won championships in sportscars and touring cars and was expected to do the same in F1.

That success, though, had come at a price - Walkinshaw was one of the most controversial figures in motor racing, with as many brushes with the rule-makers as he had trophies.

And his career at the highest level of the sport has turned out to be every bit as contentious.

He made an immediate impact when he entered F1, taking over the running of the technical side of Benetton for 1992.

With the help of current Ferrari engineers Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne, Walkinshaw turned the team from also-rans to consistent front-runners - and won the world championship in 1994.

But that year was one of the most controversial in F1 history.

Damon Hill achieved a somewhat freak second place in Hungary in 1997
Hill celebrates second place in Hungary in 1997

Benetton were accused of cheating. They had illegal software in their cars, but were not punished because the sport's governing body, the FIA, could not prove it had been used.

Nevertheless, Benetton agreed with the FIA to part company with certain staff as an act of good faith.

It was never made public who those people were, but Walkinshaw left the company at the end of the year, taking over Arrows after a short but relatively successful spell with Ligier.

Arrows pulled off a coup by signing world champion Damon Hill for 1997, but it yielded little.

There was a somewhat freak second place in the Hungarian GP, a race Hill led for the vast majority of its length before his car began to fail in the closing laps and he lost the lead to Jacques Villeneuve's Williams.

But since then it has largely been downhill.

Financially there have been flashes of hope - investment bank Morgan Grenfell bought into the team in 1998 and Walkinshaw signed a high-profile sponsorship deal with Orange in 2000.

Arrows boss Tom Walkinshaw
Walkinshaw has so far found F1 too tough for him

But the last few years have been a struggle against the odds, ending this year with the ignominy of a High Court battle with Morgan Grenfell and a damning judgement.

Some say that Walkinshaw has too often had his eye off the ball, concentrating on his other business interests, like his TWR engineering group and Gloucester Rugby Club.

Walkinshaw denies he spreads himself too thin.

But he has found money and new partners hard to come by, despite his long history in the car and motorsport industries - or perhaps because of it, some believe.

Walkinshaw is a hard-nosed businessman and sportsman who has made as many enemies as he has friends through 30 years in motorsport.

He was always viewed as the ultimate survivor, the man who could be guaranteed to pull off the last-minute saving deal.

But even he seems to have got in too deep with Arrows, a team which during 25 years in F1 has often seemed destined to fail.


Road to nowhere

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