Heads roll in Jaguar F1 technical blood letting

IF anybody thought Jaguar Racing chairman Neil Ressler and his newly appointed CEO Bobby Rahal were not totally serious about the F1 business, then they'd better think again. Big time.

In one of the most dramatic blood-letting operations in recent F1 history, this week has seen the technical staff at Jaguar's Milton Keynes headquarters decimated in dramatic fashion - starting with the replacement of the team's Technical Director Gary Anderson.

In addition, race engineers Andy le Fleming and Rob Gearing, Gerry Hughes, electrician Andy Rice and design engineer Dave Rendell are all leaving the team with immediate effect.

Anderson's place as Technical Director will be taken by the highly experienced and versatile former McLaren engineer Steve Nichols. This is an imaginative appointment, for although Nichols has been away from the F1 pit lane front line for the past couple of seasons, he has accumulated a tremendous amount of experience over the past two decades.

Nichols will supervise a design group which includes former Williams engineer John Russell and former Lola aerodynamicist Mark Handford. In fact, Nichols deserves an honourable mention in the context of wider F1 history. His personal connections in Salt Lake City put Ron Dennis and John Barnard in touch with Hercules Aerospace way back in 1980, leading to the construction of the revolutionary McLaren MP4, the first ever carbon-fibre chassis F1 car.

Nichols was Niki Lauda's race engineer at McLaren in 1984/85 after which he was promoted to the role of chief designer, completing the 1987 MP4/3 design after Barnard left the team. In 1988 he worked with Gordon Murray on the development of the McLaren-Honda MP4/4 and then followed in Barnard's footsteps to Ferrari, designing the evolutionary 1991 Ferrari 641 driven by Alain Prost and Jean Alesi.

He later worked briefly for Jordan before eventually retracing his steps to McLaren. A quiet and somewhat introspective individual, Nichols has been recruited as much for his easy temperament as the diversity of his knowledge of the F1 business.

Ressler holds out great hopes for the new engineering team, having taken a firm and unyielding approach to what he has perceived as a rather tense and difficult situation under the Anderson regime.

"I am enormously proud that we have managed to ready the interim car with the 2001 engine, gearbox and rear suspension to test today (Friday) at Silverstone," said Ressler.

"You would have been amazed at the number of people who told us that it couldn't be done, but we've achieved it and this should make a big contribution to our competitiveness next season."

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