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Grand Prix Racing: Jaguar takes over from Stewart for 2000

14 September 1999

Grand Prix Racing:  Jaguar takes over from Stewart for 2000
Andrew Frankl Euro B.C.

The year's worst kept secret became official this morning (Tuesday,
September 14) on the Press Day of the Frankfurt Auto Show in Germany.
Earlier this year Ford Motor Company-Jaguar's owners- paid in the region of
75 million dollars for Jackie Stewart's Formula One team. At that time it
looked as though the reason was simply
to shake up the team, to improve the hitherto modest results. Well, that
was certainly part of the reason but the grand plan was something far more
exciting. Boss man Jacques Nasser had a dream.
He wanted to take on his rivals from the marketplace and beat them on the
track. Mercedes have been cashing in on their success, BMW are about to
enter the fray with Williams , Ferrari are synonymous with Grand Prix
racing so Jacques thought it was time to take them on. Head on.
Trust me, even in a huge corporation such as Ford if the big boss really
wants something it will happen. "Look at all those Ferrari flags" he said
to a colleague of mine at the German Grand  Prix, "the whole grand stand is
like a red forest. I wish it could be green." Well, it might take a while
but he might just have his wish. Jaguar have been hugely successful at the
legendary 24 hour Le Mans race and  over the years there were scenes where
the grand stands were green with lots and lots of Jaguar flags flying. He
is also very lucky by the way that no other team  races in green at
present. Lucky because TV coverage is everything and right now the blue
Benettons and the slightly darker blue Prosts are pretty difficult to
distinguish from each other and sponsors who pay millions of dollars for
their products to be seen do not like that one little bit!
So lucky Jacques will have the distinctive and distinguished British Racing
Green all to himself on the grid. In this decision he also had a very
powerful ally in the shape of new boy Wolfgang Reitzle. WR is a recent
refugee from BMW where he desperately wanted the top job but got the boot
instead during an exceptionally fraught board meeting some months ago. He
is a brilliant engineer and Nasser grabbed him just as soon as he heard the
news. WR is in a very powerful position, from his posh London offices in
London's Mayfair he is in charge of Lincoln-Mercury,
Volvo, Aston Martin and Jaguar as well. Nothing but nothing would give him
more satisfaction than to stuff his old company both in the showrooms and
on the race track. No wonder he was delighted with the idea of a Jaguar
Grand Prix team.
The company paid an awful lot of money to Eddie Irvine-currently joint
leader of the Championship with Mika Hakkinen-to become undisputed No 1
whilst current Stewart team member Johnny Herbert will stay on as No 2
although I cannot help feeling that his appointment is likely to be
temporary. He is quite the nicest, most likeable man in Formula One but
much to his- and everybody else's regret-not the fastest. Consequently
don't be too surprised to see some young hot-shot take his place half-way
through the season.
Their chances? Well, the pay-off in terms of media coverage has already
started with every TV station, newspaper and specialist publication
carrying pictures of this very exciting event and as far as current
sponsors-HSBC are concerned- Christmas came a little early this year!
As far as the race track is concerned, well, that is a different matter. In
spite of  ridiculous mistakes (Austria, Spa, Monza) by their drivers on a
good day McLaren are still the team to beat
when it comes to sheer speed. Whether Michael Schumacher will be the same
after his  Silverstone accident remains to be seen, should new team-mate
Barrichello prove to be quicker there will be problems from Day One,
especially as the Brazilian sees himself not so much as No 2 but as 1/B!
Irvine has three Grand Prix victories under his belt whilst Herbert has two
so they are both over that awful hurdle of the first, elusive victory. The
Stewart is already one of the fastest cars on the track and with a little
bit of fine tuning and engine reliability Jaguar could be a championship
contender on Day One. That day, in March 2000 is not that far away but
Nasser ‘s real dream is to win at the first Grand Prix to be held at Indy
in September 2000. With a fine driver in Irvine and billions of dollars in
the bank his chances must be at least 50-50.
In any case good luck Eddie and Johnny, good luck Jaguar and may the best
team win!