The indefatigable joint Villeneuve Racing/Durango project to join the grand prix grid is still refusing to give up on its F1 dream – but is now evaluating a move to NASCAR first before returning to Europe to try again.
1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve and former GP2 Series outfit Durango joined forces last year to bid for the available 13th slot in the 2011 field – but, like fellow applicants Epsilon Euskadi and the similarly irrepressible Stefan GP, found themselves rejected by governing body the FIA early last month.
Villeneuve has since revealed that the Italo-Canadian collaboration is henceforth looking to buy into an existing team as a means by which to join the fray [see separate story – click here
] – being linked most prominently with struggling newcomer Hispania Racing (HRT), despite blunt rebuttals from Colin Kolles.
Now Durango team principal Ivone Pinton – whose Veneto-based operation pulled out of GP2 prior to the end of the 2009 campaign citing financial difficulties, casting some incredulity over the subsequent effort to enter the far costlier world of F1 – has echoed those sentiments. If he acknowledges that he and Villeneuve have not yet admitted defeat regarding finding a way into the top flight next year and remain in contact with a number of interested parties, he concedes that a more viable alternative might be to head across the Pond into NASCAR in the first instance in order to achieve success over there and subsequently come back stronger.
“We started one year ago,” the Italian told 422race.com
, “when I decided to be out of GP2, and I dedicated myself to looking for the right partners and economic possibilities. Villeneuve himself, who came to look for me to do something together, was a good presence. He raced for me in the Speedcar Series, had fun and found out that, after knowing each other for 23 years, we were still the same people. It's a pleasant, sincere and quiet relationship. Now we are still working together, and we hope to realise this adventure.
“The first option is logically F1. We started to do this, Villeneuve wants to do this and he would like to race for a couple more years. He says, 'If [Michael] Schumacher is racing, I can do it as well, because I am three years younger than him...' He's still well as a person, he's strong, he looks like a 15-year-old. He's totally involved in this project and 'phones me five times a day. He's a good person, and I like working with him very much.
“At the moment, we are in contact with a couple of F1 teams either to become partners or to buy the team, given that we have the possibilities to do things well and the right timing to move the economic part as well. If we can do it in 2011, fine. Having said this, if it won't be that year, it will be the next. Otherwise, we will go on working on it and meanwhile, we will do something else.
“[Villeneuve] proposed to me, if we won't be able to go to F1, to skip to NASCAR together and then come back to try to do things well in Europe. This is the most logical and possible situation. It's useless to do something if you aren't sure of the quality – and we have already seen how it is to do F1 without quality.
“I think that NASCAR needs some European style. I came to see it with Jacques, and they are American, they live for the show. We have always lived for races and passion. If we could merge these two aspects – American show and European organisation – we could bring a new quality to them, which would certainly be appreciated.”