Colin Kolles was one of the more colourful characters on the F1 scene during his tenure as team principal of the outfit we once knew as Jordan. He was in charge through its various changes of name to MF1 Racing/Midland, Spyker, and finally Force India.
At the end of last season he left when Vijay Mallya shook things up, but now he’s bounced back as team principal of Campos, having seen an opportunity and convinced new boss Jose Ramon Carabante that he’s the man to kick start the operation.
Founder Adrian Campos, and his managing director Daniele Audetto, are now out of the picture. “I’m very tired physically and mentally,” Audetto said in an email this afternoon. “I need a break!”
Kolles has spent the last couple of weeks rushing around and trying to revive a project that had ground to a halt, and which appeared to have very little substance behind it. He’s almost had to start from scratch, and he’s probably even more knackered than Audetto.
“For two weeks I’m sleeping two hours a night,” Kolles told me earlier today. “It’s the most incredible time. I push more and more, and I’m not giving it up until I’m there.
“I want to succeed to bring the team on the grid, and to survive the year and to stabilise it and then to build it up.”
If two Dallaras really do make the grid in Bahrain, by all accounts it will represent a remarkable effort.
“My role is to clean up the chaos! They had basically nothing, only chaos. The only department which is basically existing is a software department, with eight guys who never saw an F1 car in their lives, and who are doing software simulation programmes. And then there are two or three engineers with F1 experience, and that’s it. The real story is a crazy story, you understand.
“We will have two cars in Bahrain. I don’t know how we will have them, and I don’t care, but we will have two cars on the grid. If this is going to be achieved, I think this is one of the most amazing things, I tell you. They had nothing. They had one empty workshop with nothing inside…”
As reported earlier, work has now restarted at Dallara. The team will operate from there for the opening flyaways, so presumably the Cosworth engines and Xtrac gearboxes will be delivered to Italy so that the cars can be built up.
“It will be based in Spain as an HQ, but for now we will operate from Dallara, for the first race, and we’ll see. On the mid-term it will definitely be in Spain. The team will be based in Murcia. We have to build up a state of the art factory, wind tunnel, and everything.”
The chances of fitting in any kind of shakedown before Bahrain are slim, Kolles admits. Meanwhile, he has to put a race team together.
“There are things which will be last, last minute, because to do a team in two weeks is not easy. It’s only possible because I have the infrastructure. I have people working for me like Mike Krack, who was chief engineer at BMW for example. Geoff Willis is a kind of consultant at the moment, and we’ll see how we’ll proceed with him.
“I have a big network, but this is the smallest problem, the mechanics and engineers and so on. This is almost sorted out already. There are other issues.
“About everything, you have to find agreements with Cosworth, Dallara, Xtrac, all the other suppliers, discussions with drivers, with Bernie. You have to eliminate the ‘race stoppers,’ that’s the point.”
Tonight’s official press release said that the line-up would be announced ‘in due time.’ There was no mention of Bruno Senna, who signed a contract with Adrian Campos, although one presumes that doesn’t necessarily mean that that the Brazilian won’t remain involved. However Kolles says the team needs drivers with sponsors to supplement the budget. US F1 refugee Jose Maria Lopez is obviously on the list, pending confirmation of his funding, while Karun Chandhok has been looking for a seat.
“It’s very clear that we need a budget to rescue the team… And that’s it. In Jordan [in 2005] we also had to start with pay drivers, and then it developed. After four years you have full professional drivers. When the team is performing and the team is efficient, that is on a second page.”
With Campos gone, it would be pointless to keep his name above the door, but changing it may not be the work of a moment, as the FIA and FOM would have to approve it. However, clearly the plan is to change if possible.
“It will be a different one… Let’s wait.”
Still with a Spanish flavour?
“I don’t think so. Maybe with an American flavour,” he said mischievously. “Maybe with an American-Spanish flavour!”