Features - News Feature
APRIL 1, 1991
Jordan challenges the established F1 order
BY JOE SAWARD
Eddie Jordan talks a good game. He set up a Grand Prix team and somehow managed to land a Ford HB V8 engine deal. He succeeded where others failed to entice 7Up into Formula 1 and in Phoenix he had to deliver the goods. He did not disappoint. Bertrand Gachot ran strongly and, despite engine failure at the end of the race, he was classified 10th.
If anyone had any doubts that the performance was down to the luck of the Irish, the Brazilian GP underlined the performance.
'Basically the weekend got better and better,' explained Eddie. 'In the first 10 or 15 laps of the race we were running ninth and 10th and the cars looked very strong. I have to say that I am leaving Brazil a lot happier even if the overall result was less than we had at Phoenix.
'We've improved and we've learned a few things to improve at Imola.'
Eddie's efforts have been mightily impressive, but a few months ago things looked very rickety.
'I think I was confident from the beginning,' says Eddie. 'I believed that the team had a reasonable amount of reality attached to it from Day One. When I made the decision to put together a lot of borrowed money, and my own money, It was not a decision which was taken lightly.'
Phoenix was still a daunting experience. Andrea de Cesaris failed to pre-qualify.
'I was disappointed, but that is a hazard of pre-qualifying. At Phoenix I hadn't given enough thought to the possibility of not pre-qualifying. I think I misunderstood how traumatic pre-qualifying can be, but that's not to say that we underestimated it. Eight good cars arrive and try desperately to be on the pace. Before you start you know half of them are going to be excluded.
'I entered knowing this to be the case therefore it is impossible to say it is fair or unfair. They are the rules and I will abide by them. I don't feel sorry for the teams that haven't pre-qualified, but it is a very hard pill to swallow.
'In Phoenix it made us go on the defensive rather than the attack. Here in Brazil I think the thing that impressed me most of all was that we had an engine/gearbox problem after pre-qualifying and it meant that the whole back end of the car had to be changed. What was so pleasing for me was that we were strong even to endure some setbacks. Here we had both cars in and we were pushing forward. We're aggressive and we're arrogant. We are saying: "Where are the bastards? Let's get them" -- not in a nasty way but in competition in the true sense of the word.
'After the drama of our first race we had a few honest sit-downs to work out where we were, our capabilities and the potential of the team. After thinking about Phoenix realistically I know what the potential is.
'We realise where we are good and were we are bad. We've tried to improve on those, but by no means have we cracked it yet. Everyone in F1 is striving to move forward and we have so much to learn. Hopefully our learning curve will be steeper than other people who already have a bank of knowledge. There are so many pieces of intricate information that are required to be the best in any formula it is difficult to have all that knowledge in a hurry.
'But we've made progress and that is the kind of thing I need to see. I also need to see the background. I need to see if the team is working well. We are nowhere near the potential that I think is there. We have good equipment not mountains of it. We have a good technical programme. I don't want to look ahead and say its all going to be easy, because there are going to be setbacks.'
Right now, however, Team 7Up Jordan is the talk of the paddock.
'We've had to work hard for it,' says Eddie, 'but we've done it our way. I'm not saying its the best way, but I feel satisfied. I hope we can grow into a bigger and happier team. There is no doubt that the bigger we get the less personal it becomes. That in itself is a worry because I have always felt that I have been very close to my team, in a hands-on situation. Of course, whether I like it or not, I cannot do it like it was before because it is a bigger operation, but I would be very reticent to give up the things that have made us successful in F3 and F3000 because I believe in those principles.'
At Imola Benetton will get the new HB V8 Series V engine, while Jordan will continue with the Series IV. Surely such a situation will be frustrating?
'No,' says Eddie. 'I am massively supportive of the Benetton programme. I honestly believe and hope they will win races. I hope the new engine is like they believe it is, because that will work back into our system. It would be very naive and foolhardy to try and outdo a team like Benetton. We are not in that position. We are the new kids on the block and we are not even starting to be in that position.
'Of course if we get the chance we will try and beat them. That's normal racing sense. They have the official works Ford deal and we have the Cosworth deal, sure, both engine are made by the same people, but I have no problems in accepting the terms of the agreement. All the new development and technology when it is available will go to Benetton first. I have no problems in accepting that. We can lend support and feedback to the ultimate benefit of both ourselves and Benetton.'
While the Ford engine deal was coup, the signing of 7Up was an ever bigger surprise. Several F1 teams had tried to land the Pepsi subsiduary, Jordan succeeded. How did he do that?
'Well, I'm not going to tell you how I did it because then everyone else would know!' laughs Eddie characteristically. 'I think you'll be surprised by other commercial activities we are planning. We are very commercially-orientated. We have always had major corporate sponsorship and we've been able to hold on to it. I feel comfortable in this way. I like to work with professionals.
'Our philosophy is that generally the sponsor is always right. I think they also have to be made aware in a professional way of what their role is -- in the most diplomatic and beneficial way for both parties. Each then knows where they stand and what is expected. I think it is very important to have a set of ground rules which is accepted by both parties. They are easy to adhere to.
'There are times when there are differences of opinion, of course, it is how those differences are sorted out that give the strength to a relationship.'
So what is next for Jordan?
'Well, I think we've achieved a lot in everything we have done so far, but we want to be the champions. We want to be champions like McLaren and do it continuously.
'We have to be careful that we don't arrive at a plateau and accept it. The plateau can only be the ultimate. We have to be careful not to accept just being comfortable. That is going to take time.
'In motor racing clever decisions have to be made continually. From a technical point of view, a financial point of view, in logistics and in operations. Getting it right gives you a great sense of satisfaction.
'It's very easy to be blase and big-headed in F1, but it can turn and smack you in the face so quickly. To be anything other than humble in this business I think is a gross mistake. Fortune can dictate so many of the borderline issues. You can have the best of everything and you should win if that is the case, but we're all human and we all need Lady Luck on our side.