F1 debutant Wilson urges investor to share in his future

MELBOURNE: Britain’s Justin Wilson geared up for his Formula One debut yesterday by urging investors to share in his future and reap the dividends for years to come. 

The 24-year-old, who has become a public limited company to pay for his seat at Minardi by selling shares in himself, issued a 34-page prospectus at the Australian Grand Prix presenting himself as a high-risk but tax efficient investment. 

After posing with local glamour model Sarah-Jane at the launch of the new Minardi ahead of Sunday’s season-opening race, the rookie brandished a sample share certificate for photographers. 

“I think it’s quite exciting. It’s a new system,” said Wilson of his share scheme. “It’s taken a long time to set up so it’s quite satisfying to have it finally revealed today.” 

The glossy publication, with a preface by former television commentator Murray Walker, pitched the lanky newcomer as a potential double-your-money opportunity for a minimum subscription of £500 (US$790.4). 

NEW CAR, NEW HOPE: Minardi drivers Justin Wilson (right) and Jos Verstappen pose for photos at the unveiling of the new PS03 car in Melbourne yesterday. -- Reuterspic

It also made no secret of the dangers involved. 

“Minardi may fail to complete the Formula One season through lack of funds,” it warned on a page outlining all the risk factors, adding that owner Paul Stoddart was confident that the team would survive. 

Wilson, the 2001 Formula 3000 champion and by far the tallest grand prix driver at 1.90m, is in a team noticeably short on sponsors and needs to raise £1.2 million. 

After three years any returns will be tax free in Britain and backers, apart from potentially getting their money back twice over, will also be entitled to 10% of Wilson’s income to 2012. 

Former grand prix driver Jonathan Palmer, now managing director of Justin Wilson Plc, said the scheme covered Wilson’s motor racing career and not just Formula One. 

“All income that Justin earns, which is pretty academic this year, in the future from driving fees, personal sponsorships, personal appearances, endorsements will all go into Justin Wilson Plc. 

“Justin Wilson Plc will pay Justin £50,000 this year, £75,000 next year and £100,000 in 2005,” he said. 

“This is not a penal route for Justin but it is a uniquely compromising one for his future income ... I don’t suppose there are any other F1 drivers out there who’d be happy with £100,000 income in 2005. 

“But as far as Justin is concerned the options are either not being in Formula One at all or being in on this basis. He is not someone who has dreamt of Formula One because it means private jets and Monaco apartments and boats.” 

Palmer said Wilson’s father Keith had underwritten the Minardi drive. 

“This is a huge personal commitment and one that is scary, there’s no question about that,” he said. 

Team boss Paul Stoddart said he was watching Wilson’s initiative with interest. 

“If it works for Justin I think you might see Minardi Plc in the not too distant future,” he said. 

“I think there’s a lot of worse investments that people could make in this uncertain market than investing in Formula One and in a driver.” 

The Minardi carries stickers for Wilson’s website – www.investinwilson.com – a situation that leaves Dutchman Jos Verstappen driving a car advertising his teammate. 

“He said he hopes it works out for me,” said Wilson. – Reuters 

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