It's official - it's Jaguar

THE Formula 1 Commission met in London last week and agreed that Stewart Grand Prix can change its name to JaguarÊRacing next year. The decision means that the Ford Motor Company, which owns Jaguar can go ahead with its plans to announce a full-blown Jaguar F1 team at the Frankfurt Motor Show later this month. We expect that Ford will announce that it has signed Eddie Irvine before the main Jaguar presentation so as not to detract from it. Irvine will probably be confirmed as a Ford driver at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, which will give Ford maximum exposure in Italy.

The plan appears to be to run the Jaguar F1 cars in British racing green colors with the Jaguar leaping cat logo prominent. There is, however, expected to be some commercial sponsorship with HSBC expected to remain on the cars.

Jaguar was established as SS Cars in 1934 with the first Jaguar car appearing in 1936. The company was run by racing enthusiasts such as William Lyons, Harry Weslake - who went on to build his own Formula 1 engines in the 1960s - and William Heynes. The 1950s saw Jaguar enjoying much success in sports and touring car racing , including five victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours and one on the Monte Carlo Rally. The company then concentrated on production cars, notably the E-type Jaguar. Jaguar eventually became part of the British Motor Corporation and then British Leyland before becoming independent again in 1984. The company went back into touring cars and sportscars and won the Le Mans 24 Hours again in 1988 andÊ1990.

The Jaguar name has never been officially involved in F1 although in 1950 Clemente Biondetti ran a Jaguar XK engine in the back of a Ferrari chassis and a little known Argentine driver named Adolfo Schwelm-Cruz ran a stripped-down XK120 in the non-championship Pescara GP.

Jaguar's racing successes has created a certain mystique about the brand which Ford is now trying to exploit through racing. The short-term aim is to help the company sell the S-type and the planned X400 models but in the longer-term Ford hopes to establish a global Jaguar following in the sport, similar to that enjoyed by Ferrari. Although Jaguar continues to push its essentially British image, Fords's intention is to make big inroads into BMW markets in the United States, Germany and Japan.