Fancy an F1 joyride?
Paul Stoddart's Minardi company is offering rides in their two-seater F1 cars to the general public for the first time this August. Previously they rides were generally only available to competition and charity auction winners with the rest going to corporate hospitality clients. Michael Schumacher is known to have hired a Mindardi two-seater to give his friends and family rides around the Ferrari's Fiorano test track (this was before Ferrari built their own three-seater car), but then money is no object to him.
The prices start at 2,000 Euros for a single lap, rising to 4,500 Euros for three laps. That seems a bit steep for a ride in the back seat of a car where you can't even look forwards due to the driver's head-restraint. Consider that for a similar amount you can get a full day of training in various single-seaters, culminating in several laps of driving a real F1 car around a proper race circuit yourself. Granted, not everyone wants to drive an F1 car themselves, but to sell this as the ultimate F1 experience is pushing things a bit. The cars will be piloted by the Hungarian mobile chicane, Zsolt Baumgartner, Patrick "not enough funding for a full season" Friesacher, as well as Chanoch "purchaser of the most expensive track day in history" Nissany and Stoddart himself.
If you've got money to burn more details are available on the Mindardi f1x2 webiste. While I'm on the subject I should mention that while Paul Stoddart did indeed sell the actual company known as Mindardi to Red Bull (to become Scuderia Toro Rosso), he retained the pre-2005 cars and the rights to the Minardi name in the deal. Both of those were superfluous to STR, though I wonder why he didn't also keep the 2005 cars since STR have never run them - always apparently planning to use the ex-Red Bull, ex-Jaguar chassis for 2006.
I should also mention a wonderful quote from Giancarlo Minardi from the end of last season which reveals entirely how he feels about the Stoddart era of ownership. Talking about his sadness that the Minardi name would disappear from Formula 1 with the sale of the team to Red Bull, he said:
"I made one particular error five years ago. I didn't follow the advice I was given by a man with whom I had a relationship in the early seventies, long before getting into F1.
"That man told me: 'Minardi, sell your stock, sell whatever you want, but don't ever sell your name.' That man's name was Enzo Ferrari. Instead [of selling it] I gave the name away for free."
(link to the original news posting for autosport.com subscribers)