Paul Stoddart (born 26 May 1955) is an Australian millionaire airline magnate, and former owner of the Minardi Formula One racing team. He later took the Minardi brand into the Champ Car World Series after his purchase of a portion of CTE-HVM Racing which he renamed Minardi Team USA for 2007.
Early life and establishment of European Aviation
Born in Coburg, Melbourne, Australia, and attended Preston Technical School and St Joseph's College Melbourne. Stoddart's first business was a car dealership; he was a racing patron from the start and entered a number of his own GT cars in various local competitions. He was later based in England and was the Yugo car distributor for the UK and also had a hire car detailing business in Manchester detailing the ex-hire cars before sale to the public.
In late 1989, Stoddart purchased two BAC 1-11 aircraft and three Falcon 20 business jets (and a large assortment of spare parts for both aircraft) from the Royal Australian Air Force's 'VIP Squad' (the Canberra-based No 34 SQN), intending to on-sell the BAC 1-11s to a VIP operator or charter service in the UK/Africa. The Falcon 20 aircraft were on-sold from his Sydney base, at Hawker Pacific Mascot, to civilian buyers. The first BAC 1-11 was flown to England in April 1990 with the second following in 1991. He bought a number of BAC 1-11 aircraft from DAN AIR forming European Aviation.
Stoddart returned to racing in 1996 when he purchased ten Tyrrell F1 cars, a Minardi, a Benetton, and a Brabham for his own use. European Aviation sponsored Tyrrell in 1997; the same year, Stoddart entered his numerous F1 cars in an F1 Historical Championship; he established his own team, European Formula Racing, whose driver Nigel Greensall won the championship in 1997 and 1998.
Formula One sponsor
Tyrrell had almost adopted Stoddart and European Aviation as a technical partner, and were planning a team wind tunnel at the company's headquarters, when in early 1998, British American Tobacco bought out the Tyrrell family and established its own team, British American Racing. Stoddart bought much of the Tyrrell equipment and became a sponsor of Jordan Grand Prix in 1999; he also entered two drivers in the Formula 3000 championship.
European Aviation moved on to sponsor Arrows in 2000 and his European Racing became the Arrows Junior Team, with driver Mark Webber.
Minardi team owner
Stoddart realized his dream to become a Formula One team owner when Minardi shareholder Gabriele Rumi sold out to him shortly before the 2001 season began. Under Stoddart, the team struggled from 2001 to 2005, remaining a perennial backmarker due to its shortage of lucrative sponsorship. Stoddart almost sold European Aviation at the end of 2002 and Wilux became Minardi's title sponsor. Longtime Minardi sporting director John Walton died on the eve of the 2004 British Grand Prix; the team ran a sponsor-free tribute livery for that race, but Wilux subsequently ended its sponsorship, stating that they would rather have been informed beforehand. A lack of sponsorship once again left Minardi's future very much in doubt. For most of what would turn out to be Minardi's final season on the grid, the black cars were emblazoned with OzJet, a three aircraft Boeing 737-300 business class only airline in Australia owned by Stoddart, that flew for a few months but is now operating as a Charter service. On 12 September 2005, Stoddart announced that he had sold his team to Red Bull Racing owner Dietrich Mateschitz who subsequently rebranded the team as Toro Rosso.
In March 2006, less than a year after selling his team to Red Bull, Stoddart announced his intentions to return the Minardi name to Formula One after lodging an entry with the FIA for the 2008 championship season. However, rival entry Prodrive were awarded the 12th and final place on the grid (which they ultimately did not use).
Move to North America
In December 2006 Stoddart purchased the CTE-HVM ChampCar team which he renamed Minardi Team USA - Giancarlo Minardi retains the rights to use the name in some formulae and markets, Stoddart in others. The team was successful, Robert Doornbos finishing 3rd overall and taking the Rookie of the Year honours. However, a month before the 2008 season, ChampCar was absorbed by the rival Indy Racing League. Although enthusiastic about the future of the series, Stoddart opted not to enter it, fearing that he and the other ex-ChampCar teams would be unable to be competitive. However, the half of the team owned by Keith Wiggins continued on as HVM Racing in the IRL.
With the new F1 management wanting to expand the F1 Experience for their fans, starting from the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix Stoddart is offering fans the ability to ride in one of his Minardi Fx3 cars.