In 1997, one could never image that a traditional racing car producer that spanned their creatures from F-3 to world sports cars and Indy cars could be a part of tremendous fiasco trying to return to F1 – they designed and ran the Beatrice and Larrousse cars in the eighties. Especially considering that they had a global sponsor which made the adventure even more credible: MasterCard. They should have been a force to be reckoned with, no doubt at all.
Primary plans were to start only in 1998, as the other series commitments were proving to be huge, but pressure from the PR guys made all the effort being brought one year ahead, which would lay the foundations for the disaster. Originally the car was to be powered by a V10 developed by Al Melling, but delays on testing and development made necessary the change for a no more state-of-the-art Ford Zetec V8. With only five months available, the T97/30 was designed by the Eric Broadley team without any wind tunnel test to its name.
It was, somehow, an F-Nippon chassis on steroids, and only a brief shakedown preceded the real debut, in Australia. The drivers’ duo was, to say the least, a huge guess – if Vincenzo Sospiri was a gifted youngster, Ricardo Rosset was better known by the amount of personal sponsoring he had. With lap times up to 12 seconds higher than the pole, they were denied the chance of being on the grid by the 107% rule. The same story followed in Brazil and, among the shame and the little chances of a rehearsal, MasterCard decided to pull the plug. It would prove to be too much even to Lola, that went bankrupt weeks later.