Forward Racing boss Giovanni Cuzari remains under arrest in Lugano, Switzerland, and the team remain in doubt whether they will be able to participate in the next MotoGP round, scheduled for Indianapolis on August 9th.
The biggest problem the team faces is that their bank accounts have been frozen, as part of the ongoing investigation into tax evasion, fraud, and corruption which Cuzari and Libero Galli have been charged with by the Swiss authorities.
The Open class Yamaha M1s and equipment belonging to the team are already in Indianapolis, having been flown there by IRTA after the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring.
But without access to money to be able to pay for flights, hotels, car rental, and all of the other sundry expenses that are necessary to allow a MotoGP team to actually go racing, Forward Racing team manager Marco Curioni has called on the series organizers to help them make the race at Indy.
We have learned that the series organizers are working behind the scenes to try to allow Forward Racing to race at Indy. Both Dorna and IRTA recognize that the team finds themselves in a difficult situation not entirely of their own making.
Although only the team owner has been arrested, this has had a much greater effect than if any other individual member of the team had been arrested. The team’s accounts are frozen because they are in Cuzari’s name, rather than because of anything the team as a whole is suspected of being involved with.
Marco Curioni has appealed to IRTA to cover their costs for Indianapolis, to allow the team to compete there, but that is not within the purview of the organization.
Dorna, as series organizer, holds the funds to make such a decision, but MotoGP’s rights holders are always afraid of setting a precedent for situations which may be much less exceptional than this.
Forward are engaged with talking with sponsors about finding short-term solutions to allow them to continue until the situation has been resolved, or at least alleviated.
In theory, if Forward do not race at Indianapolis, they would be in breach of their contract and could have their grid slots taken away from them. That, however, will not happen, the series organizers showing the team clemency.
The team have been assured that there grid slots are safe should they miss Indianapolis, Brno, or both. At the moment, the series organizers are proceeding in the expectation that Forward will be at Indy. The team is expected to make a decision on participation some time next week.
What this means for the rest of the season and for 2016 is unclear. The Forward Racing team is regarded as competent, the team having shown its potential last year with Aleix Espargaro.
Nobody in the paddock wants to see the 40-odd team members, including riders, mechanics, hospitality staff, truck drivers, and more, left high and dry before the end of the season.
Forward has two realistic options: try to persuade their sponsors to stay on board for the rest of the year, or pass on their grid slots to another team for the remainder of 2015 and beyond.
Lasting out the rest of the season may be possible if the team gets access to the funds they already have, but having another team take their slots is unlikely, at least for this season.
There are teams interested in moving up to MotoGP – the Pons Moto2 team is one, and Marc VDS is interested in taking a second slot in MotoGP – who may be willing to take over the grid slots for 2016.
What makes Forward’s grid slots attractive to other teams is the fact that they are currently eligible for payment of travel allowance and free tires for both this year and next.
With only 22 teams guaranteed subsidy next year, a newcomer would not receive such funds. Buying the slots of an existing team would change that, and with those slots worth roughly €1.4 million per rider, they are an attractive proposition indeed.
With those grid slots as a bargaining chip, Forward Racing have a stronger position with interested teams, at least in the short term.
Photo: © 2014 Tony Goldsmith / www.tonygoldsmith.net – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.