AUGUST 23, 2001
Rahal ousted in head-to-head with Lauda
NIKI LAUDA has won his battle for control of the Jaguar F1 team as it will be announced on Friday that Bobby Rahal has been ousted from his position as its chief executive officer after less than a year in the post.
Rahal's resignation comes after a lengthy meeting yesterday afternoon with Wolfgang Reitzle, president of Ford's Premier Automotive Group which controls Jaguar, Aston Martin, Volvo, Land Rover and Lincoln. Rahal has lost out in a political battle with retired triple world champion Lauda with whom he shared the running of the team in a characteristically complex operational structure put in place Ford, the owners of Jaguar.
Ironically Rahal almost pulled off the coup of his career when he secured a contract with McLaren technical director Adrian Newey who then changed his mind and decided to stay with his current employers.
It promises to be an expensive exercise for Jaguar who face the prospect of paying around four million pounds in severance in order to terminate the balance of Rahal's three year contract.
The management of the team was complicated when Lauda was appointed as chairman of the premier automotive group, answerable to Reitzle, at the start of this year. Increasingly irreconcilable differences in management style between Lauda and Rahal came to a head after last month's German GP when Rahal allegedly tried to sell Eddie Irvine's contract to the rival Jordan-Honda team.
Lauda was outraged and vetoed the project, but sources close to the team believe that the differences between the two men ran deeper and this was the issue which brought matters to a head. Rahal clearly believed his contract gave him a wide brief to make key engineering appointments and then stand back, giving his team space to show what they could do.
By contrast Lauda made little secret of his view that the American was lacking management skills when it came to motivating the 250-strong workforce at the team's Milton Keynes headquarters.