DECEMBER 19, 2003
Review of the year: 9th - Jordan
Eddie Jordan is one of the sport's most colorful characters and for many years was one of the most popular. But something changed. After Jordan sold out a share of his team and became fabulously wealthy, he seemed to lose the drive that was so admired. The team began to drift, investment was not made and good people departed. The Jordan team went into a slide and yet Jordan seemed more interested in building up his own brand and getting his picture in fashion magazines rather than fighting to turn the operation around.
Stung by such observations, Jordan seemed to be trying a lot harder in 2003 but by then he had a big job to do. After two races when there was no hint of the cars being competitive we suddenly had a Jordan victory in Brazil. You can call it lucky - one might even say miraculous - but it happened and you cannot take it away from Fisichella and Gary Anderson, who threw caution to the wind on strategy. Fisichella had qualified with a light car and was well up the grid. After eight laps running behind the Safety Car at the start the team decided to bring Giancarlo in to take on a full tank of fuel and so run to the finish. On lap 54 Fisichella was briefly in the lead but was pushed back to second place a lap later. As fate would have it, the race was stopped soon afterwards and Fisichella won on countback, despite the fact that his car was by then in flames, having overheated while running behind the Safety Car.
After that day the team never looked much of a threat for points, let alone wins, although the canny Fisichella did pick up more points in Spain and at Indianapolis. Without the money to do development work and struggling with Bridgestone tires, the battle became more and more difficult. The engineers were frustrated and the team management began to do more and more desperate things. The most bizarre was Jordan's attempt to win $150m in damages from mobile phone company Vodafone, by claiming in the High Court in London that Vodafone had pulled out of a three-year deal to sponsor Jordan and had switched to rival Ferrari instead. Jordan abandoned its claim two days after the trial ended but the judge Mr. Justice Langley rejected an attempt to hush up the findings and said that Jordan's claim was "plainly demonstrated to be without foundation and false". He said that Jordan himself had been "a wholly unsatisfactory witness".
This was not what the team needed. In addition Jordan was forced to pay Vodafone's costs in addition to his own. That cost the team around $4.5m.
There were also problems within the sport where Jordan's attempts to get a cheaper engine deal by playing Ford and Mercedes-Benz off against one another caused a great deal of upset, not least because Jordan complained to the FIA and other external authorities. He was lucky that the whole thing was shoved quietly under the carpet.
For a long time it looked as though Jordan would end up selling the team but Eddie wanted to stay on and in the end the only solution was to stitch together a rescue bid from an Irish consortium fronted by stockbroking company called Merrion Capital. This did not bring in any new money to the team but it did bring a little more stability although at the end of the year technical director Henri Durand and the head of race and test engineering Anderson both departed, severely weakening the technical team.
Given that background it was a tough year for the two drivers: Fisichella scored his long-awaited first wins but seem demotivated for most of the year and went off to Sauber without regret, while Firman was always trying to catch up and his season was seriously disrupted when his rear wing fell off in Hungary and he ended up in hospital after a massive accident.
Jordan is still a fighter but in addition to his other problems he now faces the need to rebuild his credibility within the sport - which will be toughest battle of them all. But there are many who remember the old Eddie Jordan and hope to see more of him again in the future...
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