INTERVIEW

The highs and low of Eddie Jordan

You had to feel sorry for Eddie Jordan at the European Grand Prix. His dreams were coming true. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was leading the race - and the prospect of 10 points was floating along behind him. Mika Hakkinen and Eddie Irvine were both a lap behind and not looking likely to score a point. HH had driven brilliantly, the team had got the pit stop absolutely right... and then the Jordan spluttered and stopped.

"This race was a litany of disasters," said Jordan. "I feel so sorry for Heinz."

Before the race EJ had been trying hard to keep down his hopes. Frentzen was on pole. Hakkinen was up there but Irvine was back in ninth on the grid. Frentzen's World Championship challenge - which has come almost from nowhere - was looking like more than an outside chance.

"It's not a big chance," said Eddie. "If we come away from the Nurburgring with less than a 10-point deficit on Mika and Eddie then I think we have a good chance because I know what Honda and Mugen are doing for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka is going to make us really strong. As for Malaysia, anything can happen because it is a new track for everybody so it will be a bit of a lottery. But Heinz-Harald is driving incredibly well and what the team has to do is to give him a quick and reliable car."

So does Eddie think that the Jordan team is now ready for a World Championship, despite the fact that it is much smaller than its rivals?

"The team does not drive the car," said Eddie. "The car is in good shape. Can the car win the World Championship? If you were applying natural logic to that question the only car capable of winning the World Championship this year is the McLaren. But the fact is that there is something not right there. Fundamentally there is a problem: with the drivers, on the engineering side or in terms of reliability.

"We will not win the World Championship without others having misfortune. But at the same time you are never lucky to win a World Championship because it is over 16 races. Sixteen races. Perhaps "fortunate" is a better word. It would be fortunate if Irvine was to win the World Championship. In fact Hakkinen can only lose it, the rest of us can only win it. We are not in a strong position from a gambling point of view but you know I have a sneaking feeling..."

At the start of the year the Jordan was not as competitive as it has now become and Jordan reckons that the success of the car is down to the development programme.

"We have had continuous and constructive improvement with the car and the engine. At every race we seem to have something new and better on the car and the same seems to be happening with the engine. Heinz-Harald has been driving impeccably. You have to say that he has made little or not mistakes. If he has they have normally been on a Friday when he is pushing to find something to make the car a little bit faster. If he is 12th fastest on a Friday it does not matter in the slightest. I know what he is like. That does not affect him."

But what about Damon Hill? Surely his performance this year has been a bit of a disappointment given that the team could be in a much better situation in the Constructors' title if Damon had produced some better results.

"If Damon had scored the points this year that he did last season we would be in a much better position," Eddie admits, "but we would still only be in third place in the Constructors' title. I think that is very disappointing but I expect you will find that Williams is saying exactly the same thing because they have scored all their points with Ralf Schumacher. It is disappointing for me because when you hire a World Champion you expect more, particularly after the promise of last year when he scored so many points. If he had scored the 20 he got last year -and I believe that our car is better than last year - we would be a lot more comfortable in third place in the Constructors' title.

"This year we targeted four points a race and that means that after 16 races we aim to have 64 points. At the moment we are on schedule to beat that total but we have not done it until the season is over and so that it out big target. Sixty-three points will give us third in the Constructors' Championship. Next year we want to score an average of five points a race and so if we have 16 races we need to score 80 points. In order to do that we are going to have to take points off the other top guys and that is going to be difficult. I reckon we need about 100 points to win the Constructors' title but 80 will get us into the top three and there is a chance that we could be in the top two. That is our target."

Next year British American Racing becomes the Honda factory team with a brand new V10 engine. Isn't Jordan worried that the old Honda V10 will be less competitive?

"You think the new engine will be better than the one we have now? That is absolutely not a concern for me," says Jordan. "I am very happy with what we have discussed with both Honda and Mugen. This is our choice. Right now anyone who would give up on the engine we have would be crazy. It is very reliable and it is getting faster and faster. We are happy. I could never be convinced - at the moment - that Honda will come out with a better and quicker engine straight away. This one is so strong. There may be a crossover period later next season but we are happy with the relationship. There are no guarantees with anything in life. There are people trying to play up that situation but it really is not in Honda's interest - nor in Mugen's interest - to give Jordan inferior equipment - particularly if we are in contention for the World Championship. It is not even sensible. It defies logic and the Honda people are not that kind of person."

"You know," Jordan added, "the word Jordan means "a joke" in Japanese. That is one of the reasons we are such as popular in Japan as we are. The word means joke. We were never a joke but we do like to have fun.

"..and the championship is still open."

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