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Rahal and Jaguar

BOBBY RAHAL is expected to be named the new chief executive officer of Jaguar Racing in the course of this weekend's United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. The three-time CART champion has been acting chief executive of CART since the resignation in June of Andrew Craig but he never intended to remain in that job.

Rahal tried racing in Europe when he was on his way up in the late 1970s and after a quite successful program in Formula 3 was able to get a ride in a second Wolf for the United States and Canadian Grands Prix of 1978.

After failing to land a regular F1 drive he went back to the United States of America and concentrated on CART racing and won a total 24 victories in 17 seasons. In 1992 he set up his own team with Carl Hogan, buying Patrick Racing, and that year became the first owner/driver to win the CART series at his first attempt. In 1993 the team built its own car but this was not a success. At the end of 1995 Hogan went into partnership with Roger Penske and Rahal sold half of the new Team Rahal to David Letterman, the host of the hugely-popular Late Show on CBS Television.

Rahal continued racing until the end of 1998 but then retired to concentrate on running the team and building up a string of retail car businesses (which includes Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Volvo and Mercedes dealerships). Since he became acting chief executive of CART, Rahal has left the running of Team Rahal to General Manager Scott Roembke. Rahal is expected to remain the owner of the team but will relocate from his native Columbus to England.

It is expected that the current head of Jaguar Racing, Neil Ressler, will remain as chairman of Jaguar Racing, Cosworth Racing and PI, while Rahal will take over the running of the team. Jaguar Racing is also expected to get a new sporting director and rumors in recent months have suggested that this could be Nigel Stepney, the Englishman who is currently the team coordinator at Ferrari.

The Jaguar Racing technical team is not expected to change much in the immediate future with Gary Anderson continuing to build up the technical capabilities of the operation while John Russell, who joined the team from Williams last autumn, will be chief designer. The 2001 season is expected to be another transition year for Jaguar as the team still has to wait for the construction of its new headquarters which are expected to be at Silverstone. If all goes to plan this huge facility will be finished in time for the 2003 season.

The most interesting thing about the appointment of Rahal is that he has very close links with McLaren technical director Adrian Newey, who is widely regarded to be the best designer in Grand Prix racing at the moment. Newey is currently being paid around $2m a year at McLaren. Newey and Rahal are close friends, dating back to the 1980s when Rahal was driving for the Kraco team and Newey was an engineer with March and acted as Rahal's race engineer.

This would tie up with Ford Motor Company boss Jac Nasser's view that there is no point in changing personnel at Jaguar Racing until the right people are available. Nasser's implication at the time was that Jaguar had someone in mind and it now seems that Newey is that man. Adrian has made it clear that it is not a question of money. McLaren's Ron Dennis will almost certainly match whatever offer Newey receives from elsewhere but if a package can be put together which is attractive to Adrian he is likely to move. Having Rahal as chief executive would be a major step towards that goal and the fact that Jaguar is in the process of designing a brand new state-of-the-art windtunnel, which will be designed by the Sverdrup company (which did the upgrading on the McLaren windtunnel) would back up the argument.

It must also be remembered that Newey does have a soft spot for Jaguar. One of the stars cars in his private collection is a 1935 SS100, the model which launched the Jaguar company.

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