Jaguar F1 team targets top rally engineer to expand program

Eddie Irvine, Japanese GP 2001

Eddie Irvine, Japanese GP 2001 

 © The Cahier Archive

THE seriousness of the Jaguar F1 team's long term ambitions has become clearer this week, initially with the news that it has clinched a deal to purchase the Arrows wind tunnel. Now it seems that Niki Lauda and his colleagues have targeted one of international rallying's most respected engineers to organize the technical side of the F1 operation.

It is understood that Lauda has made an approach to Gunther Steiner, the engineering mastermind behind the Ford Focus world rally championship program who works at Malcolm Wilson's headquarters in Cumbria. Although no senior management would comment on the matter at Suzuka over the weekend, it is believed the deal for Steiner to join Jaguar is close to being finalized. He could join them as early as November, following the final round of the World Rally Championship in Britain.

Steiner, who has worked for Ford's rally supremo Malcolm Wilson for several years, is being tipped to organize the technical side of the Jag F1 operation at its Milton Keynes headquarters. His pedigree makes him an ideal candidate to coordinate all the engineering functions of the British F1 team as it seeks to boost its performance in 2002.

Team principal Niki Lauda has said on several occasions that he would run the team on his own until the end of the year, after which he would need a suitably qualified candidate to help operate the team. Steiner would seem to fit the bill perfectly.

The move is a clear indication of Lauda's intention of sharpening up the entire Jaguar F1 operation. In the wake of Bobby Rahal's departure in August there was a feeling in the F1 paddock that the former World Champion was perhaps lacking a degree of direction in terms of administering the project.

Now he seems to have taken a competitively proactive role towards the task of shaping Jaguar's F1 fortunes in 2002 which he fully appreciates will be a pivotal year in terms of the project's credibility. Steiner's is just one key component in the overall package.

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