Shelby McLaren Arrows A20 1999 Sponsor
After reflecting on the Jaguar XJ220 and Tom Walkinshaw’s role in building the engines for that car Shelby McLaren was drawn to his recollection of the 1999 Australian Grand Prix and to what would become one of the most bizarre moments in Formula 1 sponsorship history.
The gloriously sunny weather in Melbourne in the March of 1999 was a welcome relief from Shelby’s native Edinburgh and it brought with it all the anticipation and excitement of a new F1 season. During practice Shelby spotted a very unfamiliar ’t-minus’ logo on the Arrows cars so he asked Tom Walkinshaw who their new sponsor was? Tom was somewhat cagey with his answer and simply suggested that ,’all will be revealed’.
It was only a matter of time before the new sponsor at Arrows was the talk of the Melbourne paddock and when Jackie (Stewart) told him the story Shelby almost dropped the ice cold lager he was enjoying. Shelby wasn’t sure which part of the story was more bizarre, the promise of 125 million dollars to Arrows or the likelihood of an actual princedom belonging to this new sponsor, the Nigerian Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim.
The most perplexing question for most was exactly how the t-minus brand was going to generate any money. The promise of everything from Lamborghini’s and Ducati’s to shoes, clothing and energy drinks bearing the T-Minus logo seemed far-fetched, if not totally unbelievable! Shelby was even more suspicious when he learnt that the Prince had hired a PR firm to boost his profile in F1 to ensure his gratuitous self-promotion. Shelby’s profession meant that he was highly skilled in the ability to spot a deception but he hoped, at least for his old friend Tom Walkinshaw, that he was wrong about this one, he wasn’t.
By the time the Arrows was rolling out of the Garage at the Hungarian GP in August the t-minus logo had disappeared from the cars. The promised money had evaporated and so had the Prince, it left The Arrows team in financial ruin and it was a reminder to Shelby that sometimes a promise can just be too good to be true.
This sad and sorry tale was captured by the slot car world in a very unique way. The Spanish maker SCX released the Arrows A20 (catalogue 6040) in 1999 in the livery from the Australian Grand prix of that year. The t-minus logo can be seen on the rear wing with the tantalisingly obscured logos on the side-pods of the car. The SCX F1 cars of the time were quite popular for a couple of reasons. They offered cars in a far greater range of livery’s than Scalextric (UK) and the cars had an active front steering rack that allowed the wheels to turn with the guide. These F1 cars are a lot of fun to drive and remain popular with F1 slot car enthusiasts. Did you have this car?