After a hiatus of four years, March returned to Formula 1 in 1987 with Japanese sponsorship money and a distinctive ‘Miami Blue’ livery. The budget was meagre, the staff was small, the drivers Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin were F1 rookies – less than ideal circumstances to say the least. Nevertheless, the team took sixth place in the 1988 constructors’ championship, ahead of Williams who had won the title the year before. Exclusively for AUTOMOBILSPORT, then-team manager Ian Phillips recounts how it all happened.
The origins of the Leyton House F1 team go back to themiddle of 1986. Leyton Housewas the fashion hobby of Korean-born, Tokyo-based property magnate Akira Akagi. His brand was sponsoring a host of cars racing in the Japanese domestic championships. Their lead driver Akira Hagiwara was killed testing their Mercedes 190 E at the Sugo circuit in April. Although Formula 3000replaced Formula 2in Europe in 1985, F2 was in its final Japanese season and Leyton House had entered a pair of March-Yamahas.
I was working for Marlboro in Japan that year,principally looking after Mike Thackwell at Nova Racing. As I was also covering the European F3000 Championship and writing Autosport’s news pages,it was a busy year. No less than nineteentrips to Japan,and you couldn’t go direct from the UK until late that year. I spent many hours at Anchorage Airport in Alaska which was the standard stopover point where, more often than not, it snowed and we could be delayed by many hours.
Ivan Capelli, 1984 European Formula 3champion, was a leading force in the second year of the F3000 championship (which he eventually won) for Cesare Gariboldi’s single-car Genoa Racing team. Bridgestone’s boss Hiroshi Yasukawa initially approached Capelli to join the Leyton House F2 team and was able to offer some much-needed sponsorship to Gariboldi. Marlboro were also supportive,so I nowhad two people to look after in Japan…
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by Ian Phillips
Photographs: GRANDPRIXIMAGES/John Townsend, Sutton, Sammlung Ian Phillips, GRANDPRIXPHOTO/Peter Nygaard, Kräling