Since 1991, Eddie Jordan’s F1 team has overcome financial hardship and achieved moderate success, but soon the Toyota-powered F1 cars will be linked to the Irishman in name only.
Since 1991, Eddie Jordan’s F1 team has overcome financial hardship and achieved moderate success, but this year the Toyota-powered F1 cars will bear little more than the Irishman’s name.
Jordan, a former Dublin bank clerk who dreamt of owning his own F1 team, helped launch the F1 careers of Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Alessandro Zanardi and Eddie Irvine. But now the outspoken Irishman has sold a virtual controlling share in the Silverstone-based squad to a Canadian steel tycoon, Alex Shnaider.
The bottle green Ford HB-powered Jordan EJ191 joined the Formula One grid in 1991, and it is best remembered as the car with which seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher made his grand prix début. Following a solid 1991, Jordan gained backing from South African synthetic fuels giant Sasol for two years and switched from Ford to Yamaha, Hart, Peugeot and Mugen-Honda, but didn’t have much success in its battle with the top teams.
However, in 1998, with primary backing from Benson and Hedges, Jordan won its first of four Grand Prix victories with Damon Hill. A year later, Heinz-Harald Frentzen was in sight of becoming an unlikely world champion, although he couldn’t sustain the challenge.
Giancarlo Fisichella's victory at a rainswept Brazilian Grand Prix in 2003 was Jordan's last stroke of luck. Jordan, who finished ninth out of the 10 teams last year, were facing collapse when Ford, who supplied the team's Cosworth engines, announced in September they were withdrawing from the sport.
They were only able to keep going into 2005 by Toyota's offer to provide engines: "I have devoted 35 years of my life to motor racing and have had some really fantastic times," Jordan said. "The last 14 years, when I have been lucky enough to be involved in Formula One, have been a highlight. Winning our first grand prix in 1998, which broke the grip that the top teams of the time had on the sport, is for me a personal triumph."
He was determined to find a buyer who would keep the Jordan team intact ,and that man was Alex Shnaider, a 36-year-old Russian-born Canadian based in Toronto, who grew up in Israel and has huge financial interests in Russian steel and manufacturing.
Last October, Shnaider's Midland group said they would join the Grand Prix grid in 2006 with a car built by Italian manufacturer Dallara. But by taking over Jordan, Shnaider does not have to pay the R288 million entry bond to enter F1 as a new team. It also guarantees a share of television income and improved pay-outs promised by commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone.
The team will compete in the 2005 season as Jordan Grand Prix and the cars will be known as Jordan Toyota EJ15s. "I spoke to a number of interested parties in recent months and these are absolutely the right people," Jordan said of the Midland deal.
"They are totally committed and, as we look to the future, we will see this team return to the competitiveness we have proved we are capable of. The sport and the required resources have changed, and this deal provides the team with the security and strength it needs. I’m glad that for the time being we keep the Jordan name, and I am also delighted to confirm that I will remain involved with the team and will be working with Jordan in a variety of commercial and sponsorship capacities as we move forward," he added.
Jordan may paint a rosy picture about his future involvement in F1, but although the Irishman retains the balance of the shares (50,1 per cent) in the team, the Midland Group only bought the shares that were owned by the Morgan Grenfell bank… According to reports, Shnaider intends to buy all of Jordan's shares later in 2005 to become the sole owner of the team.
Shnaider recently said the first Midland F1 car (which should be ready for the 2006 season) would be designed and built in Italy by Dallara, not at Jordan’s headquarters outside Silverstone.
Therefore, a question mark hangs over the future of the numerous engineers working under the supervision of Mark Smith at Jordan.