JULY 14, 1997
Jordan confirms Mugen, B&H and Mastercard
EDDIE JORDAN had a good week before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, tying up not only his engine supply for the next couple of years but also re-signing with Benson & Hedges until the end of 1999 and picking up some more money from credit card company Mastercard. The team also unveiled its recently-revamped windtunnel facility at Brackley - now known as Jordan Technologies. This was bought from Robin Herd last autumn and has been completely overhauled, enabling the team to run its own 40%-scale models. The team intends to expand the windtunnel facility to enable customers to use the tunnel when Jordan does not need it and may base some of its other R&D operations there in the future. The facility is likely to come under the control of Dr. John Davis.
The exclusive Mugen Honda engine deal for 1998 and 1999 was not unexpected but is believed to include much more of a commitment from the Honda Motor Company than has been the case in recent years. It may, in fact, turn out to be a factory contract as the team needed such a deal to ensure that Ralf Schumacher did not slip away to McLaren next year. Schumacher Jr. has a contract which includes a clause which means Jordan must use "a factory engine". This does not mean that Ralf will actually stay with Jordan next year but if McLaren and Mercedes-Benz want the young German they are now going to have to pay considerable sums of money to get him out of Jordan. If the money is offered, however, Eddie Jordan is likely to take it, as he did a couple of years ago when Ferrari wanted Eddie Irvine. As part of the deal Jordan will institute a scholarship scheme for Japanese drivers in European racing. The details are expected to be announced at the Japanese GP in October.
Benson & Hedges, a brand of the recently-floated Gallaher Group tobacco company, is to continue with the team for another two years. The influx of B&H money has been one of the most important catalysts in the team's expansion and its continuation can only hope to continue the team's steady rate of growth.
The team has found additional backing from Mastercard's Latin American and Caribbean operations. Grand Prix racing is hugely popular in these areas, which are major targets for credit card expansion at the moment. The deal is believed to be the leftover from the abortive Mastercard Lola F1 team but will probably be continued next year. It is worth noting that Visa - Mastercard's rival - may be considering an involvement in F1. The company's worldwide public relations boss Louise Tingstrom used to work in Grand Prix racing 10 years ago with the FIA and was spotted recently at a Grand Prix.
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