Fondmetal GR01: unsuccessful single-seater, successful prototypeWritten by 'Αγγελος Φωτσεινός
Translated by Giannis Binas
In the end of the 80s and the beginning of 90s, new teams that debuted in Formula 1 “sprouted like mushrooms”, either buying out a smaller team’s assets or beginning from scratch, which is also where they were usually ending.
Gabriele Rumi chose the first path: in 1990, he bought the Italian Osella (to which he was a sponsor for a series of years) and renamed it to Fondmetal.
Fondmetal was the big pride of the Italian businessman, a company that he found in 1972 and evolved to one of the most popular alloy wheel manufacturers worldwide.
A successful professional course though, does not automatically mean a successful path in racing and Rumi saw the worst side of the sport: at its first year in Formula 1, Fondmetal barely managed to qualify in 6 races out of 16 starts.
Highlight of the season was the detachment of the nosecone from Oliver Grouillard’s car while attempting to qualify at Imola’s qualifying session (0:39 onwards):
In advance of 1992, Rumi wished for better results and for that reason he assigned Sergio Rinland, former chief designer in Brabham, to design a new single-seater.
The resources were limited, no doubt, which meant that the new car would take its time to visit the track.
Thus, the year began with GR01 (GR from Rumi’s initials) an upgrade to Fomet F1 that raced for the biggest part of the previous season.
GR01 was used for more races than what Rumi expected, at the successor, GR02 (the car designed by Rinland) was barely ready in Canada and only for Gabriele Tarquini, not for Andrea Chiesa.
That is to say, both drivers raced with GR01 for the first 6 races, while Chiesa raced two more, until his GR02 was ready.
The results were poor this year too: the goal of qualifying was a piece of cake for Tarquini, but not for Chiesa, resulting at him being replaced at Hungary, by Eric van der Poele.
They were limited though, to the ‘joy’ of participation – 12 retirements out of 13 starts for the later legend in Touring Car championships, 2 retirements out of 3 starts for van der Poele… Chiesa, in turn, wasn’t fortunate to see the checkered flag in any of his 3 starts.
After the home race at Monza, shutting down was a fact: the expenses from the continuous retirements were unbearable.
Rumi returned to the crime scene immediately, initially as a sponsor for Tyrrell in 1994-1995, and from 1996 as a co-owner at Minardi (he sold his shares to Paul Stoddart in the end of 2000, being at the final stages of cancer).
He didn’t enjoy any success with Minardi either, he saw, however, Fondmetal...excelling at another championship, without any involvement of his own. Responsible for that success was a compatriot of his, Ranieri Randaccio.
Randaccio bought one of the remaining GR01 and converted it from an open wheel single-seater to an open Can-Am prototype, in order to participate at the Interserie prototype championship, a racing class with highly flexible regulations (allowing participation with modified Formula 1, Formula 3, Formula 3000 and Champcar vehicles).
This championship was at full glory in the 70s and the 80s, where drivers such as Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi, Bernd Schneider and Klaus Ludwig ‘marched’ from the grid.
The modified GR01, was ‘baptized’ FG01 and under its new name had a notable career.
Randaccio was a driver too, apart from a converter, and achieved 3 victories, 4 second places and 2 thirds out of 18 races between 1994 and 1997.
There were plenty of cases in racing chronicles, where a racing car from a certain category was converted to compete in another.
However, Fondmetal FG01 Ford Can-Am’s case is unique, as it derives from a sigle-seater that was a complete failure in every race it competed in Formula 1 (as opposed to other single-seaters that were converted into prototypes, such as Minardi M190, Jordan 191, Footwork FA11-12-13) but was ‘transformed’ into the better at its 2nd career.
Perhaps, Gabriele Rumi chose the wrong class after all…