JULY 14, 1997
Jordan confirms Mugen, B&H and Mastercard
The exclusive Mugen Honda engine deal for 1998 and 1999 was not unexpected but is believed to include much more of a commitment from the Honda Motor Company than has been the case in recent years. It may, in fact, turn out to be a factory contract as the team needed such a deal to ensure that Ralf Schumacher did not slip away to McLaren next year. SchumacherÊJr. has a contract which includes a clause which means Jordan must use "a factory engine". This does not mean that Ralf will actually stay with Jordan next year but if McLaren and Mercedes-Benz want the young German they are now going to have to pay considerable sums of money to get him out of Jordan. If the money is offered, however, Eddie Jordan is likely to take it, as he did a couple of years ago when Ferrari wanted Eddie Irvine. As part of the deal Jordan will institute a scholarship scheme for Japanese drivers in European racing. The details are expected to be announced at the Japanese GP in October.
Benson & Hedges, a brand of the recently-floated Gallaher Group tobacco company, is to continue with the team for another two years. The influx of B&H money has been one of the most important catalysts in the team's expansion and its continuation can only hope to continue the team's steady rate of growth.
The team has found additional backing from Mastercard's Latin American and Caribbean operations. Grand Prix racing is hugely popular in these areas, which are major targets for credit card expansion at the moment. The deal is believed to be the leftover from the abortive Mastercard Lola F1 team but will probably be continued next year. It is worth noting that Visa - Mastercard's rival - may be considering an involvement in F1. The company's worldwide public relations boss LouiseÊTingstrom used to work in Grand Prix racing 10 years ago with the FIA and was spotted recently at a Grand Prix.