Only the truly die-hard F1 nerds would remember the name ‘Onyx Race Engineering’ – a team which briefly raced in Formula 1 in the late 1980s – but the former outfit is staging a resurrection, announcing it will enter this year’s FIA World Touring Car Championship.
Then known as Onyx Grand Prix, the team enjoyed a successful period in Formula 2 and Formula 3000 before graduating to F1 in 1989 with the backing of Paul Shakespeare and eccentric Belgian millionaire Jean-Pierre Van Rossem and with Stefan Johansson and Bertrand Gachot as drivers.
The team rarely qualified, although when Johansson did, he claimed a few surprise results which included a podium at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
But the project fell apart as van Roosem took greater control of the operation before selling the team to Swiss businessman Peter Monteverdi, an equally eccentric team owner who quickly ran the team into the ground.
Onyx founder Mike Earle continued to be involved in racing, running the former BTCC and WTCC outfit Arena Motorsport, which had a brief flirtation with the latter in 2012 with a pair of Ford Focus racers, although without the success that the team has perhaps hoped for.
Earle has now finally confirmed long-standing rumours that he will return to the championship.
Following Arena Motorsport’s closure, the team’s assets were sold to Rotek Racing, which had planned to re-enter the WTCC in the latter half of the 2013 season, although ultimately those plans were shelved and the equipment was then on-sold to a Chinese buyer.
Onyx, meanwhile, has held talks with a number of drivers and independent teams as potential customers for an as yet unannounced model of car which they will develop, but the team has instead elected to go it alone with their own bespoke design developed out of their Littlehampton headquarters.
The news means that the Onyx-built model (whatever it may be) will be the sixth different make of car confirmed for this year’s championship, joining the works-supported cars from Citroën, Honda and LADA, as well as the independently-built Chevrolets and the older-spec SEATs.
Onyx’s resurrection has come by dint of a partnership with the Arlington Industries Group.
“This association with Arlington Industries Group is exciting, there are many synergies in the goals that our core businesses seek to achieve over the next five years,” Onyx CEO Mike Earle said.
“This is a unique opportunity to assemble such a strong automotive group with the common intention of success in the finest touring car championship in the world.”
The announcement means that Onyx will become the second independent supplier of 2014-spec cars for the WTCC, with RML building up to six Chevrolet Cruzes for privateer outfits Campos Racing, Bamboo Engineering and ROAL Motorsport.