Haas undeterred by challenge of starting F1 team
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Gene Haas wants double the profits of CNC machine manufacturer Haas Automation to $2 billion a year — a goal he believes he can only accomplish by tapping into the global market.
And how does he do that? By starting a Formula One team, of course.
Haas insisted Monday he is serious about fielding an F1 team based in North Carolina, on the same land in Kannapolis that houses the Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR team he co-owns with Tony Stewart.
“We want to be an American team. We think that has the most sizzle to it,” he said.
Haas, through Haas Racing Development, paid a $5,000 application fee to F1’s governing body during an open application period for new teams interested in racing in either the 2015 or 2016 season. He said he has received some frank advice from F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone about this venture.
“Mr. Ecclestone doesn’t think I have enough money to do this. He doesn’t think we will get the license. So my chances probably aren’t that great of a shot,” Haas said.
Haas didn’t blink when asked Monday if he’d be willing to help fund Kurt Busch’s potential Indianapolis 500 entry — “He hasn’t asked me,” he said — and is already paying anywhere between $12 million and $20 million out of pocket for Haas CNC to sponsor Busch’s new fourth entry at SHR — an endeavor that required significant capital improvement at SHR headquarters.
So does he have enough money for an F1 team?
“I won’t know until I try. If you don’t try, you’ll never fail,” he said. “The Europeans have their way of doing things, and we as Americans have our way of doing things. I think we could be competitive and successful.”
He admitted Ecclestone’s warning was likely his way of “being as brutally honest with us as he can” but Haas is driven by the challenge of being America’s first F1 entrant since Penske Racing competed from England from 1974-78.
The last U.S.-based team was Parnelli Jones Racing in 1974-76, when Mario Andretti drove.
The FIA granted entry to an American team in 2009 — the USF1 team — but it failed to hit the grid in 2010 and Haas said that botched effort could hurt his process. His next application is due Feb. 10.
He’s got the support of Stewart, but his partner in the NASCAR team would not be part of an F1 venture.
“That’s Gene’s project, but it’s pretty exciting,” Stewart said. “Gene is the kind of person who when he puts his mind to it, he has the ability to stay focused. He’s done that with the Cup side, he’s done that with Haas Automation, and it’s going to be exciting watching him try to do that in Formula One.”
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