Dome F1 Adventure Behind the Scenes
- Episode 1…here it comes at last… !

First of all, I am very sorry for the people who have accessed this column on the internet many times. I have been extremely busy with the FIA Sports Car Championship (which has just started) going to America to negotiate the IRL chassis supply and preparation for Le Mans 24 hours. I have bought a round-the-world air ticket 4 times and haven't slept in the same bed for more than 3 consecutive days. The timing to start writing this column has to be some sort of mistake!
This column would be better written by someone who has a routine life; going on patrol to Gion after sunset and then later goes back to his peaceful home and spends the rest of the night in his study.

President Hayashi has been saying that we will reveal our F1 behind-the-scenes story one day. He has already completed the draft story so I thought we could upload it on the HP, but our coworkers said that the person who has done the actual work and negotiations should write the story himself. I guess the President thought that if I didn't write any stories, nobody would ever know the efforts I have made. Therefore I will dig deep into my memory banks and record -in as much detail as I can reveal to the public - about what I have done.

I am going to begin with the story President Hayashi wrote:

<We don't know when it started, but we received quite a number of emails entitled, "Never Ending Story". Several emails were exchanged straight away with this same title, followed by a few more after this, and then didn't see any emails later on.
It was like making love with a very rampant woman; we continued to be taunted by her but could not give up on her. As it was a secret love affair, it could not be revealed to anyone. But it was getting hard to keep it secret for such a long time.
It was March 18, 1996 when Dome announced the plans for an F1 GP challenge and revealed the F1 Prototype machine.
After the announcement the plans hit the rocks in a short period of time. We cannot go into too much detail why it came to an end, but certainly this was the time we started to see the emergence of a big 'push'. Dome's F1 challenge was not regarded as urgent and it certainly made a big impact on our later plans.
A part of the push soon became unveiled; Honda announced their "F1 racing plan" on March 9, 1998 and in this announcement they expressed "a plan with an in-house engine, chassis, team and operation". This was exactly the same as our concept for "F1 GP NIPPON" and our challenge for "F1 GP NIPPON" lost its meaning the moment Honda made this announcement. In 1998, Dome officially announced on the Internet home page that we would postpone the challenge for "F1 GP NIPPON" and stop development of vehicles on the surface. However a letter which arrived to Dome before this announcement opened the chapter of the long-lasting "Never Ending Story".>

It was at about the end of 1997. As I recall, we were doing the year-end test at Mine Circuit. On the way back to the hotel, I received a phone call from Marco (ex- Ferrari Manager) on my mobile and I thought that it was rather unusual of him to make an international call to reach me on my mobile.
He was working as Manager under Folio while I was working as Minardi Manager. He and I used to take the same-chartered flight to GPs held in Europe and we got on well. We also had a close relationship due to the fact that Minardi used the Ferrari engine in 1991.
"What has happened to Dome's F1 Plans? A Prince has contacted me, though I cannot mention his name yet, and he is looking for a constructor for his team. Do you think you can be of assistance?" I thought that Ferrari had an English silver cutlery brand (but I was not sure) owned by The Royal Family of Brunei as a sponsor thus Brunei came up instantly on my mind. But I was wrong. It was Africa. As we had been in some negotiations with a billionaire of the Royal Family several times in the past, this new chance wasn't surprising to me. It didn't sound particularly exciting but I felt that there was something different to this when I heard the updates from Marco. He also had had plenty of similar experiences.

After several conversations on the phone, he told me that he wanted to meet me after Christmas. I headed to London right after the New Year. According to the Prince, he was based in London because his main business was supplying fuel to aircraft at Heathrow Airport. As I wanted to show him our corporate introduction video and had to explain our business plan, I decided to book a conference room at the Heathrow Hilton Hotel.
The conference rooms of the Hilton are always used for FIA F1 technical working group meetings and I was familiar with this room as I once attended the meeting as a member of the group in 1996.

I was rushing about viewing the various different sized rooms in order to choose which one was the best to use whilst reminding myself to request a video set to use. I opened door of one of the rooms and was so surprised to come face to face with Patrick Head of Williams. "Hello! How are you?" I was asked.
"Well, actually I am here for another meeting" I said. As I was mumbling away, Tom Walkinshaw came towards me and said, "Oh, Honda! Don't say you are in a different meeting. You will find our meeting is much more fun!"

Their appointment date was strangely on the same date as the FIA meeting and I walked directly into their meeting room. However, luckily our meeting was tied-up before their meeting finished and they didn't have a chance to see what I was up to.

Episode 2 Meeting with Prince Marick

Marco brought Prince around the time we arranged to meet. He wasn't wearing a turban but wearing a very well made black suit and he was HUGE. He was so huge but gave me impression that he was very gentle and nice. I was given a card said, Marick Ad Abraham with an emblem. He was from Nigeria. As he was on in the middle of Sawm and wouldn't take anything but tea, we ordered some tea.
I heard much about his involvement in the past from Marco on the telephone that he was supporting Jordan or some other racing teams but he was just a sponsor, he wasn't a team member and felt he wanted to be more involved as he paid the sponsor fee. That's why he wanted to launch his own racing team and become the first black F1 team owner to give people in Africa a dream. He also mentioned that markets in Africa had big possibilities for the future and we could expect much from business point of view, too. I wondered why he was called Prince as Nigeria did not have royalism. I later understood that there are more than 200 tribes in neighbor countries and his tribe is on top of the rest of all. His father is King of the all tribes.

He told me that he had met Eddie Jordan the previous night and I suggested to buy his team if they are friends as it seemed to me the easy way to do. He told me though Eddie was a good friend, he was a hard negotiator when it came to a business. He told me that was why he wasn't interested in buying Eddie's team. Then he told me he wanted to buy Tyrell and was in deep negotiations with them. He prepared deposit and was on the point of closing the contract but the son of now-dead Ken Tyrell, Bob Tyrell started talking about rubbish and sold the team to British American Tobacco instead.
We know this kind of doggy stories a lot, but Marco seemed to know this case very well and he got some ammos that Marick actually had went to the bank to pay the deposit himself. I cannot disclose the name of the bank or the sum of money he was paying, though.
I thought I could promote Minardi if he was keen on racing team that much but he wanted to be England-based. I proposed a draft plan, operation based in England though I was not very keen on England as a country myself then. I am very happy now that the plan wasn't materialized in the end. It is nothing but just distress to live in a country where you can't have proper meals.
He seemed to be very keen on Honda or Mugen engine but they were not essential according to him.
As he could predict the situations from the unclear future of Honda and Mugen then, we didn't have any objection about his decision.
Though he wanted to be England-based, he was interested in challenging with Japanese technology (with colored society) away from British clannish F1 society. It is always the case we have to find a very good engine for F1 otherwise we cannot even start anything,

Tadashi Sasaki