Sunday, October 02, 2011

Probst Departs Red Bull, Team Expected To Close At Season's End

Former Red Bull Racing Technical Director John Probst has left that team to accept an identical post at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Probst will oversee all engineering for EGR's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series operation, which fields Chevrolets for both Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya. In his new role, Probst will work closely with the team’s competition director Steve Hmiel.

“As a race team owner, you owe it to your team, partners and the fans to bring in good people whenever you have the opportunity,” said Team Owner Chip Ganassi. “So when John became available we jumped at the opportunity to bring him on board. We think he will be a great addition to this team.”

Probst previously spent five years with Red Bull, after spending more than a decade at Ford Motor Company, predominately in their motor sports division. His final role at Ford was as a vehicle dynamics supervisor for Ford Racing Technology, overseeing all of Ford’s chassis development, setup engineering, software and simulations. He previously held posts at Ford Electronics Racing, with Jackie Stewart’s Formula One program, as program manager of Ford Racing Technology’s Champ Car operation and as an engineer on the Jaguar Formula One team.

Probst's departure from Red Bull is the latest in a series of indicators that the team may not continue to operate following the 2011 race season. One week after informing the State of North Carolina that its 152 employees could face layoffs as soon as December 17, multiple sources tell Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that the team has no potential buyers and no realistic options for a sale.

Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz is reportedly asking $40 million for the team; a price insiders say is at the high end of the valuation scale. He has reportedly offered potential buyers a one-year, $20-million Red Bull sponsorship package as an incentive to buy, but is unwilling to sell the team for a flat, $20-million price tag.

A group of Brazilian Red Bull distributors reportedly expressed interest in purchasing the team shortly after Mateschitz announced his decision to sell, with plans to bring a top-name Brazilian driver -– or even two -- to NASCAR. Those talks never progressed past the preliminary phase. 1997 Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve also expressed interest in the team, but has no investor group assembled and does not have the personal resources necessary for a purchase.

Villeneuve's manager, Rick Gorne, told the website recently, "There have been discussions with Red Bull, but that is all it has been, discussion. We are currently evaluating other opportunities in NASCAR for Jacques, also."

Informed sources say the most likely scenario is that Red Bull will cease operations at the end of this season, leaving those 152 employees without jobs. Crewmembers have said they are not at liberty to pursue other employment for 2012, as long as they remain under contract to Red Bull. Team Vice President/General Manager Jay Frye reportedly requested that Red Bull allow those employees to seek employment for next year before their current contracts expire, but was rebuffed by his superiors in Austria.

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