#F1 Features: Forza Rossa Meets the Caterham Circus

The Caterham Scam Continued: Connections in High Places
Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor landroni edited by TJ13 editor in chief Andrew Huntley Jacobs

Following the relentless investigative efforts by ProSport (a Romanian Publication), several new and intriguing elements have surfaced regarding the incredible events surrounding the fishy smelling
non-sale of Caterham and the contrived founding of Forza Rossa.

Updated 00:31 GMT Mon 22nd December 2014

I Forza Rossa and Victor Ponta

Back in the autumn, ProSport reported that they believed Victor Ponta, the current Romanian prime-minister and controversial failed presidential candidate in the Romanian 2014 Presidential elections, was the secret backer behind Ion Bazac fronted Forza Rossa (FR) project.

It has been widely assumed that the FR project was reliant upon Ponta Snr becoming president of Romania, and then delivering substantial political support and funding for the Formula One project. However, Ponta was defeated in the 2nd round of the Presidential vote mid November, by Klaus Iohannis,

Despite the exact financial arrangements for the project being unclear, the declared backer for the Forza Rossa project was Dr Ion Bazac. He is an ex-Social Democratic Party member (PSD in Romania), and is widely recognised as a close ally of Victor Ponta, currently the PSD party leader).

Back in February 2014, Dr Nicolae Bănicioiu – also a member of the PSD and the then Minister of Youth and Sport – was reportedly claiming, “To underline the serious nature of the Romanian bid, the country’s Minister of Youth and Sport Nicolae Banicioiu led a delegation that attended a meeting in the FIA logistics facility in Valleiry, near Geneva, earlier this week at which the proposals were examined by FIA engineers led by the federation’s Technical Director Bernard Niclot and Charlie Whiting”.

When asked about this, Ponta replied curtly, “Concerning Bănicioiu you should ask him! I only answer for myself!

Joe Saward who penned this article, then speculated, “From what we can understand the project involves a Romanian-owned entity with government support and funding coming from a series of Romanian businesses. The project has the support of the country’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta [who] has been in power since 2012. It would involve the facilities of Kodewa and Holzer in Germany and would be run by expatriate Romanian Colin Kolles, who has had experience running various F1 teams in recent years.”

Despite failing to ever score a point, the Caterham budget was some $70-80m, and following a littlke digging, it transpires Bazac has an estimated net worth of just $20m. It therefore stands to reason that a more capable financial backer for the Froza Rossa project must have existed. Sauber are hardly the wealthiest F1 operation, yet team owner Peter is believed to be worth around $100m.

Ponta and Forza Rossa appear to be intrinsically linked and ProSport has offered a relationship tree explaining the key players in the Caterham and Forza Rossa affair. All are Romanian and three of them, bizarrely, part of some dentist syndicate:

  •  Victor Ponta, current Prime-Minister in Romania, reportedly lending political
    support to the Forza Rossa
  • Dr Nicolae Bănicioiu, current Minister of Health and ex-Minister of Youth and
    Sport, and close to Victor Ponta, led in February 2014 a Forza Rossa delegation
    to the FIA
  •  Dr Ion Bazac, ex-Minister of Health and currently a businessman reportedly
    close to Ponta, is the official head of the Forza Rossa project
  • Dr Colin Kolles, is an integral part to the Forza Rossa project via his KODEWA
    operation based in Greding (Germany)
  •  Romulus Kolles, Colin’s father now in his ’80s, was named director at Caterham
    and recruited 3 Romanians on the internet, including Constantin Cojocar, to spy
    on the staff at Leafield
  •  Constantin Cojocar, ex-football player and chief of a bus depot, miraculously
    promoted overnight from janitor (and spy, it seems) to sole director and shareholder
    of Caterham during Colin Kolles’ tenure as head of the management
    team. During his interview with ProSport he was in Greding, in Colin Kolles’
    KODEWA facilities, which are now undeniably linked to the Forza Rossa operation

 

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Figure 1: Six Romanians and a controversial plan to enter F1. The potential hierarchy among the key players involved in the Caterham scam and the Forza Rosso project (courtesy ProSport).

 

 

II Forza Rossa and Colin Kolles’ KODEWA

There appears to be little doubt now that there was a conduit between the Romanians and Ecclestone – who of course is keen to recruit more lambs to the slaughter – and in the case of Forza Rossa, the gopher was Colin Kolles as his father Romulous explains. ”The Kolles name appears in the FIA application, because he went to obtain all the necessary approvals from Ecclestone.

For some unknown reason, the FIA appear to have a strong desire to fully exonerate Mr Ponta from any implication in the F1 project..

As shown in the cover letter sent by FR to the FIA, and signed by Dr Ion Bazac, a former health minister, Dr Colin Kolles was more than just part of the future plans of FR. In June 2014 Bogdan Sonea, the marketing representative at Forza Rossa, was confirming to the press that “Colin Kolles will be be our partner, given his experience in F1, in preparing and ironing out all the details related to our participation in F1”.

This could well be seen as a rather vague statement of intent and come October 2014, when the entire Caterham operation was going going belly up, FR duly quickly reneged on their claims to be intrinsically linked to Dr Kolles.

They now stated, “For the moment there is no official relationship between Mr Kolles and the Forza Rossa F1 Team. The involvement of Mr Kolles with the Caterham team is his personal choice and has no link to the Forza Rossa project which will activate in Romania.”

Given the December 2013 cover letter provided to the FIA – reported above, this appears most unconvincing. Back then, that document outlined the Forza Rossa structure and that the team’s mysterious backers would provide the “financial platform” for Dr Kolles’ German-based KODEWA to, “act as the operational arm of the Romanian entry”. In other words, Kolles wasn’t merely and advisor but instrumental and essential to the very existence of the new Romanian team.

Kolles’ KODEWA base in Germany was always set to provide the infrastructure for the technical side of the Romanian F1 project, without which the new F1 team Forza Rossa, could not exist.

Given these previous statements of intent, Forza Rossa’s current position that “there is no official relationship between Mr Kolles and the Forza Rossa F1 Team” and that the “involvement of Mr Kolles with the Caterham team is his personal choice and has no link to the Forza Rossa project,” appears tenuous to say the least.

Were Kolles to have jumped ship from the Forza Rossa project, the backers would have registered this matter back in June 2014. they didn’t and the statements they have since released smack of ‘covering ones back’ when the shit hit the fan over the Caterham mismanagement and intellectual property theft allegations brought by TJ13.

Forza Rossa and Walking PR disasters

Given the fact that FR insist they are to be 100% private effort with no government support, they appear to be remarkably unconcerned about flaunting their government connections. On 24 Nov, Forza Rossa made an emphatic official press release:

 

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Figure 2: Forza Rosso Application Page 1 (courtesy ProSport)

 

 

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Figure 3: Forza Rosso Application Page 2

 

 

Beginning with July 2014, the project of FR to participate in the F1 World Championship in 2015 has been halted, and categorically not delayed [or canceled] because of electoral reasons, as was speculated in the press.
Strange, then, that on 31st Oct 2014, 3 months after the pretended halting of the project, FR Holding announced via a press release: ”The documentation sent to the FIA includes clear and detailed informations on the means, place and equipment that shall be used for the F1 team.”

Furthermore, it transpires that FR applied to the FIA as a Romanian team, but they did not have even a national license from the Romanian Auto Club (seemingly the only body accredited for issuing such licenses).

When asked by ProSport, the Romanian Auto Club responded with “No one contacted us [on this matter].”

Whilst the proposed Forza Rossa team has no racing license even at national level, they do have a PO Box in Cyprus by which they can be contacted.

It now seems that the Caterham racing license was actually of particular importance to Kolles, FR and sidekick Manfredi, along with the valuable Intellectual property for a 2015 car – paid for by Caterham’s creditors.

What is clear though, is that team Forza Rossa stated their motive was to be “promoting Romania worldwide through projects of highest media return and reputational standing; in order to achieve the final goal of showing Romania and its capabilities worldwide”, Yet the FIA application may imply that they were not doing  particularly good job…

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Figure 4: FIA response to Rorza Rosso

Caterham’s creditors meet tomorrow to decide the fate of the company; and whilst there has allegedly been very recent interest from investors willing to buy the Leafield team, the FIA regulations meeting in Doha on Dec 3rd 2014 – in effect killed the last vestige of hope for a buyer for thebackmarker F1 team, recognisable in green.

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16 responses to “#F1 Features: Forza Rossa Meets the Caterham Circus

  1. Ok….my eyes are glazing over after reading this. If this cast of characters ever manages to cobble together a team and show up with a car, you just know it’ll be a disaster from the get go…

  2. What a freaking shambles, this is meant to be the pinnacle of motorsport, not a banger race, and at some point the FIA took them seriously. Not sure which side is more worrying!

  3. Thing is it’s not just the FIA it’s likely got Bernie’s fingerprints all over it too. Let’s face it, if you’re putting together an even halfway serious bid you’ll have already been chatting with the powers that be before anything gets submitted. And I’d say both are responsible for promulgating the circumstances that let Kolles et al flourish.

    But look at the dates on some of this stuff, how is it that no one but a Romanian publication had this info. Although I know better now, I’d still like to think that whatever passes for journalism in F1 might’ve been looking into this a little bit.

    • For no good reason I was pondering the point of ever listening to the current crop of F1 journo’s the other day. Unless they are doing a bit of freelance investigating / connecting dots and so making close-to-likely speculations & explanations (like TJ) then why bother? When was the last time the big names brought any new sh*t to light?

      If they are only reporting the stuff coming from official sources and from on-the-record conversations with the ‘players’ then that’s called being a press officer. In that, I guess, they are like much of the MSM as provided by the Dark Lord – nothing to be proud of there.

      The last time I read any James Allen he was being all coy and intimating that he knew more about a subject than what he felt able to report, which is just the biggest pile of cr*p. I haven’t been back.

      I guess Allen’s fear is that he would lose access to the top people if he spilt the beans – but if he’s not telling anyone anything until the news is official then does that mean that he works to find out what he does for his own benefit? Do him and Seward get together and giggle about what they know??

      If these noodle heads are only telling their fans about stuff after it’s happened and there is an official line available that’s been scrubbed of any incriminating fingerprints then they’re barely even historians.

      • Very well put, especially as Seward tries charging £60 a per fan a few times a year to simply have a chance to tell people how much he knows about F1. A friend of mine went to one if those ‘audience with Joe’s things, he said it was the most expensive beer and sausage role he ever ate, all CSJ did was dodge direct questions on touchy subjects and keep referencing the ‘Bottom Feeders’ who make the accredited hacks look bad (the same group that blow open many a scoop because those with accreditation are too scared of losing third paddock pass). Its sad to say my friend was very very disappointed by the whole thing and upon complaint via Seward’s comments section, promptly got banned from his blog. At least I got to stick it too him before I got ‘stopped’ from posting. They are not journo’s they are just passing on a company line

        • Frankly, Saward is one of the few to be digging at F1 management. He has posted some real criticism of FOM lately; it’s surprised me with it’s vehemence. As far as I have been able to see, The Judge and Saward are the only sites that have mentioned Gary’s little tussle with the FIA; I have been watching and haven’t seen a word elsewhere.

          I’m not sure where your hate is coming from, Clear View, but Joe does generate some very good comments and is worth reading for them; they are generally more mature and thoughtful than some of the Fanboi stuff posted here. As for The Judge, I have my doubts about the veracity of some stuff posted, mainly because TJ13 claims connections with some teams but doesn’t provide more than assurances they are real.

          In any case, I enjoy both TJ13 and Saward and appreciate the jobs they are doing; both add to our enjoyment of the ‘sport’.

          I expect to be flamed, but that’s okay.

    • I suspect there are many documents and more regarding Forza Rossa and the FIA that haven’t yet been released to the public.

      Interestingly, ProSport maintains that it has credible sources that Victor Ponta and Jean Todt signed together another document in the Forza Rossa application to the FIA. Something, of course, categorically denied by the Romanian Prime-Minister. I’m wondering how the FIA would respond to an official request for making the documents public, and whether Ponta was a signatory on any of those documents…

  4. In an alternative universe, the last couple of days have not been at all plain sailing, or even flying, for the party that was instrumental in starting this mess.

    Tony has his work cut out presently. Hope he’s taking it in.

    Thoughts go out firstly to all those with loved ones on the missing flight and to all those who had their holiday plans interrupted by the grasping nature of his start-up service and it’s mega fail.

    • Take a look at these new revelations about Caterham I published in ProSport in the past week.

      Cojocar, Caterham cleaner turned director: “I know they are using me. Kolles told me to leave England (when things turned ugly). I saw my High Court testimony in the newspapers. I asked Colin: . He told me: I’m doing it only for the money, Kolles promised me millions of euros if Caterham job will be done. I don’t know if I will see those money, but Colin is true to his words. Now I earn 1.300 euros per month”

      There is more and also a photo evidence of the fact Romanian PM Victor Ponta signed Forza Rossa documentation despite categorically denying this in November 2014.

      Cheers

      • Sorry, there was a missing sentence:

        Cojocar, Caterham cleaner turned director: “I know they are using me. Kolles told me to leave England (when things turned ugly). I saw my High Court testimony in the newspapers. I asked Colin: “What’s this? I haven’t been to High Court”. He told me: I’m doing it only for the money, Kolles promised me millions of euros if Caterham job will be done. I don’t know if I will see those money, but Colin is true to his words. Now I earn 1.300 euros per month”

        Also read this:

        COJOCAR: “From the very beginning everything at Caterham was done for Forza Rossa and Romania but the conflict with Fernandes occurred. Ponta, Bazac, Bănicioiu & many others are involved. Ghiță too. Colin took me to Austria last November and told me: “There are 50 mill. Euros in a Swiss bank account. You cannot access the money without my signature, I cannot use them without your signature. The money came through Engavest, sent by persons in Romania”

        • 🙂 it seems I used some punctuation signs that hide the body text. So this is the full version:

          Cojocar, Caterham cleaner turned director: “I know they are using me. Kolles told me to leave England (when things turned ugly). I saw my High Court testimony in the newspapers. I asked Colin: “What’s this? I haven’t been to High Court”. He told me: “Don’t worry. The lawyers will take care”.

          I’m doing it only for the money, Kolles promised me millions of euros if Caterham job will be done. I don’t know if I will see those money, but Colin is true to his words. Now I earn 1.300 euros per month”

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