Formula 1 sports director Ross Brawn wants to make Formula 1 more serious and no longer have dubious business people in the premier class of automobile sports. But motorsport keeps opening its doors for shady businessmen. And women.
One thing has been at the top of the list of Ross Brawn (65) since he accepted the offer from Formula 1 owner Liberty in 2017 to lead the premier class of automotive sports as head of sports. “I don’t want to see any more crooks in Formula 1”, was the credo of the former head of technology at Ferrari, “there have been enough of them. Motorsport and especially Formula 1 tempt to make quick money. And not everyone tries it in a serious way. The sport suffered an immense loss of image in every single case. That should no longer happen.”
Brawn has already experienced too much, so that he can immediately recognize black sheep. In the future, the Briton will personally scan people who want to get a foot in Formula 1 with promises and alleged millions in the account.
The Van Rossem case
Dodgy figures like Jean-Pierre van Rossem should no longer exist. The Belgian, who with his company Moneytron had developed a model that was supposed to predict the development of the stock exchange, bought the Onyx Formula 1 team in 1989 to promote his company. Even Porsche almost fell for him and wanted to deliver the engines. But Moneytron turned out to be a fraud. Two years later, the Onyx team no longer existed. Van Rossem was sent in prison in Belgium for five years because of this fraud in 1991.
The Arrows case
Another example: In 1999 an alleged nobleman from Nigeria appeared in the Formula 1 circus as if from nowhere. Prince Malik Abo promised the Arrows team an investment of $ 125 million and a golden future. He bought the British team with dubious bank guarantees. But money never flowed. When it came down to it, Prince Malik dived. Arrows never recovered from it and had to close in 2002. Malik was on trial in the United States six years later. He was accused of misappropriating funds allocated to support a young NASCAR pilot. Although he was acquitted for lack of evidence, he could not leave the prison until an unknown person raised Malik’s $ 35,000 bail.
The R-Motorsport case in the DTM
The prestigious DTM is also not immune to scandals. On January 24, the Swiss R-Motorsport team (led by a renowned surgeon) announced that they would withdraw from the world-renowned touring car series after only one year. Reason: They had re-evaluated their own motorsport program, in which the DTM no longer played a role. This caused raised eyebrows among other rivals from Audi and BMW.
Reason: Manufacturers adopt their programs in the autumn of the ongoing year, but not just two months before the start of a championship. The fact that the five Aston Martin Vantage, which the team had built for the DTM in 2019, are in the high-tech racing workshop of HWA in Affalterbach, also leaves a taste. Background: HWA had built the engines for the Swiss team and had the cars developed and serviced. But before the last race of the season in Hockenheim, the company of Hans-Werner Aufrecht, recognized in the scene, resigned the collaboration with the Swiss. It is now also known why: As a listed company, HWA had to publicly announce in the annual report that R-Motorsport left it in the double-digit millions.
The KDC Racing case
But that’s not all. Even the very small motorsport offers open doors to fraud. The case of Emily di Comberti goes beyond the scope. Di Comberti was formerly a man and called Jean-Patrick Guy Phillipe Mourenon. The Mourenon-Combertis are a rich Monegasque family dynasty that enjoys a high reputation in the principality.
For example, Di Comberti’s father Jean-Phillipe Mourenon owns the general agency of insurance giant Generali in Monaco. Mourenon senior has been part of the high society of the players’ paradise on the Côte d’Azur for years. Against this background, anyone who meets family members of the Mourenon clan should have no doubts about the seriousness of conversations.
Also Ex-Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn did not have this when Emily di Comberti proposed her in autumn 2017 to join a Formula 4 team, that was established close to the Spanish Formula 1 circuit in Barcelona. Di Comberti presented to the experienced motorsport manager a business plan with paid drivers that made sense – above all because the costs seemed more than covered by the assets of the Mourenon clan.
What Kaltenborn couldn’t know: That Emily di Comberti was considered the family’s black sheep in the conservative Mourenon dynasty – not only because of her gender reassignment. Because of their good reputation – and to protect the name of Generali – the escapades and offenses of Femme Fatale have been swept under the carpet again and again.
So it happened, that in January 2018 KDC Racing was founded with a share capital of 300,000 Euro. Monisha Kaltenborn should bring in her experience and take care of building up the team. In addition to a consultant fee, she should receive 50 percent stake in the team and further remuneration. Kaltenborn got the team on the wheels. Everything went according to plan, as expected, KDC took part in the Italian Formula 4 Championship from the first race and shortly afterwards scored points and even podiums.
The team also competed in the opening races for the ADAC Formula 4 Championship in Germany. But then it happened: Di Comberti chopped off money to finance her lavish lifestyle, which she alternately cultivated in the cities of Barcelona, London and at the French Riviera. In the meantime, she owed the team members salaries and other expenses. Kaltenborn was also waiting for her fee – and the promised shares.
But Di Comberti was in hiding. Even a British bankruptcy trustee unsuccessfully tried to catch the lady from the Mourenon-Di Comberti dynasty.
What is certain: Emily di Comberti can now expect legal prosecution, even in Monaco. It will then be shown whether their family, whose reputation is at stake there, can continue to wash their hands in innocence.