Lapped Legends: Andrea Moda

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I sometimes wonder what the FIA are setting out to achieve with their spoilsport rules. In particular, what is gained by raising the entry fee from $100,000 to $50,000,000?

Sure a few bad apples slipped in through the net, but it’s now nigh on impossible for a privateer team to enter F1.

Of the bad apples few were worse than Andrea Moda, a team so pitiful their existence has been all but expunged from F1 history: the outfit not even meriting a mention in the 1992 season review. This is their tragic and comic story.

Coloni imitation

That anyone would want to buy the remnants of the Coloni team beggars belief. But in the winter of 1991 Italian businessman Andrea Sassetti took the plunge and bought their assets, believing that he had also bought their entry for the 1992 season.

Enrico Bertaggia and Alex Caffi were duly signed as drivers and the outfit set off for the first race of the year in Kyalami. Upon arrival, following some protracted wrangling, it became apparent that Sassetti had only acquired Coloni’s equipment but not their entry.

So after four acclimatisation laps for Caffi on the Thursday the team were packed off home.

During the gap between Kyalami and Mexico Sassetti decided to dump the old Coloni cars for a new, Nick Wurth-designed chassis. After two weeks of frenzied labour the two new cars were ready to travel to Mexico.

Bizarrely upon the cars arrival at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Sassetti withdrew the cars citing freight delays. This understandably pleased neither Bertaggia and Caffi, nor the authorities who had helped smooth the team’s passage. The drivers voiced their disapproval at being left on the sidelines and were promptly sacked for their troubles.

Moreno and McCarthy

The team (at this stage appearing to be well supported by sponsors) brought in the undisputed king of ‘tail end Charlies’ – Roberto Moreno. He was paired with British rookie Perry McCarthy (later to become Top Gear’s ‘Stig’), who could be guaranteed to give 100%.

Next up was Brazil and before the action had even begun McCarthy had his superlicence rescinded, so it was left to Moreno give Andrea Moda its first official grand prix laps. He was 15 seconds off the pre-qualifying pace and thus failed to even make it as far as qualifying.

At Spain McCarthy finally got his first outing although much to the chagrin of Sassetti. Bertaggia had returned with $1m of backing the FIA blocked his reinstatement to the team as it had already used up its quota of driver changes.

McCarthy only got 18 yards past the end of the pit lane before the car died, while Moreno managed one entire tour of the circuit before his Andrea Moda expired. It was becoming increasingly clear the team would not be upsetting the F1 hierarchy any time soon.

The first – and last – race

At Monaco the unbelievable happened, Roberto Moreno not only got the car through pre-qualifying, but onto the grid as well. Quite how this was achieved has never been explained, but it’s safe to say that the driver was considerably quicker than his car.

McCarthy on the other hand got three laps in a car with the structural integrity of an Airfix model. Moreno ran last throughout, retiring on the 11th lap when his Judd engine died, presumably of embarrassment.

From these dizzying height things went downhill quickly. Drivers and cars arrived in Canada but the engines didn’t, and a borrowed engine for Moreno landed him last in pre-qualifying, while McCarthy was a spectator once again.

In France the drivers were all that arrived after the team’s transporters got stuck in the lorry drivers blockade. Naturally, Andrea Moda were the only team to be so afflicted.

At Silverstone – McCarthy’s home race – the cars were actually present and running. Moreno got a crack on slick tyres but was hopelessly off the pace, as was McCarthy who was (for financial reasons) sent out onto the dry track with wet tyres. Neither car made it past Friday morning.

Crashing out

The German round saw both cars sent out on slicks, but McCarthy was excluded after missing a weight check, and the car was too slow to give Moreno a chance.

Hungary saw at least some optimism permeate the team. For reasons never understood the team had picked up a couple of sponsors, and with Brabham being reduced to a one-car effort, at least one Andrea Moda was guaranteed to make it through pre-qualifying.

In a weird pre-cursor to what went on with Lewis Hamilton’s car this year, McCarthy was only released from the pits with 45 seconds of the pre-qualifying to go, so he never got the chance to set a flying lap. Moreno, despite pulling out all the stops, was 1.3s adrift of the grid.

After the debacle of McCarthy’s DNPQ Sassetti got an unequivocal message from the powers-that-be – run two cars or get out. But the next round at Spa-Francorchamps would be the team’s swansong.

With the Brabham team and Eric Comas’ Ligier missing both cars were straight through to qualifying.

Not that it made a blind bit of difference. McCarthy came within inches of a monumental accident after the team sent him on track with a flexing steering column. Unsurprisingly, he was a non-qualifier, as was Moreno for the un-developed Andrea Modas were massively off the pace.

Cashing out

Midway through the weekend the police swooped and arrested Sassetti on suspicion of fraud. That was the final straw for the FIA who booted out the team for bringing the sport into disrepute.

For McCarthy the whole episode effectively spelt the end of his single-seater career, while Moreno would re-appear for Forti Corse in 1995. They too never troubled the back of the midfield, but were still incomparably more professional than Andrea Moda.

If the outfit are ever remembered at all, it is for being unequivocally the Worst F1 Team Ever.

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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9 comments on “Lapped Legends: Andrea Moda”

  1. Alex Caffi had a narrow escape there, didn’t he?

    The FIA have gone to great lengths to prevent this sort of thing happening but I think it gives F1 character. Without the occasional team to make jokes about, the sport becomes a very grim and serious business indeed, leading the participants to over-estimate their importance in the grand scheme of things and to think that $100,000,000 fines are appropriate for what is, after all, a sporting contest only.

    They also serve who only stand and fail to qualify.

  2. I read a piece by McCarthy where he was talking about the lack of organisaton in the team. He woke in his hotel one morning to discover that not only had he overslept but the team was in such chaos it left for the track without its driver. In reception Perry met Andrea’s brother and explaine what had happened. The brother (can’t remember his name) said he would drive him to the track. So began the most terrifying experience of McCarthy’s life. The brother while not the most talented driver in the world put his foot on the floor and drove straight through several sets of red lights flat out. He eventually came to a green traffic light and on the approach slammed on the brakes and slid to a halt. When McCarthy suggested that he should have gone through the green in the same manner he had passed the reds he was told ‘Don’t be stupid. My brother could be coming the other way.’

  3. I never thought that a Formula 1 team could break some of the most basic rules of motorsport:

    1. You must bring a car. (You’d be surprised how many people try to break this one.)

    2. You must bring a car with a motor that starts.

    3. You must bring a car with a motor that will run for a majority of the race.

    4. And the rest of the car has to hold together too.

    5. You must drive your car fast enough to pass the other cars which you are competing against, without breaking your car.

    Here’s to the team that broke all of the rules.

  4. Apart from bringing a car the pre race srutineering is meant to cover the rest – what the race stewards were doing as well – but those were the days – some things have changed for the better??

  5. Other basic rules that Andrea Moda broke:

    6. You must bring a driver.

    7. Scratch that – you must bring TWO drivers.

    8. You must let BOTH drivers have some sort of go.

    9. You must get permission to race in F1 before going in F1.

    10. You must have enough money to pay for the above, or at least be able to charm enough people to give you credit long enough to do the season…

    By the way, I would recommend Perry McCarthy’s “Flat Out, Flat Broke” to anyone in need of a good laugh, especially at the expense of a bad team.

  6. I am speechless. Wow.

  7. Does anyone have an list of sponsors that were on the car through out the season?

  8. jd636, I went on (the only site I know that routinely keeps that sort of information) and I only saw three sponsors on there (sports wear giant Ellesse, unheard-of company called Tinnea and similarly unknown company Urbis). They really didn’t pay attention to point 10 on the list…

  9. Andrea Moda, that is, not

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