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Jordan deny problems as new season approaches

THE Jordan-Honda formula one team have shrugged aside suggestions that it is facing a any sort of crisis after it was announced that their chief designer Mark Smith has quit to join the rival Benetton squad x just over a week before their new car is due to be unveiled.

Smith, who will join former Jordan technical director Mike Gascoyne at Benetton, is the latest in a series of celebrated defections from the Silverstone-based team which finished a disappointing fifth in last year's constructors' championship. Jordan's highly respected engineer Sam Michael left two months ago to join Williams.

"Mark resigned last July so we've known that he's been going to leave for a long time," said Ian Phillips, Jordan's commercial director. "He's been with us for ten years and thought it was time to tackle something new.

Smith recently completed work on Jordan's EJ11 chassis, along with fellow designer John McQuilliam, which will be unveiled at the team's headquarters on January 16. He will continue to work under Gascoyne at Benetton in the same capacity as he did at Jordan.

Jordan is currently negotiating for the services of the highly respected Eghbal Hamedy, a highly respected formula one aerodynamicist, as their new technical director. However he is currently contracted to Tom Walkinshaw's Arrows formula one team and terms for his departure have yet to be finalized.

Despite this setback, Jordan looks well placed in the frenetic mid-winter contest between the teams to get their new cars ready in time to undertake the maximum possible amount of pre-season testing before the start of the season.

Jaguar is set to win that race, unveiling its new R2 challenger at its research and development centre at Whitley, near Coventry, next Tuesday, while Sauber hopes to run its latest Ferrari-engined C19 at Fiorano possibly a day before the Jordan is unveiled.

The new Williams-BMW FW23 and British American Racing's new Honda-powered challenger are expected to break cover for the first time at the Barcelona test during the last week of the month.

The McLaren-Mercedes MP4/16, on which David Coulthard's world championship hopes will be riding, will debut at Jerez a few days later while the new Ferrari should be ready in the first week of February.

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