Jordan Grand Prix: Ten Years On

Colm Ryan

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Albert Park and the Melbourne Skyline. Credit: Caterham F1

Just over a week remains before the start of the 2015 Formula One season on March 15th and when the red lights fade in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, an incalculable amount of Euro worth of car will launch towards first corner. Painstaking research resulting in the most futuristic of vehicles, potentially coming undone through the opening turn lock up or collision.

Last year, that first corner alone saw eventual champion Lewis Hamilton drop from pole to third and retiring by the second lap due to engine failure.

The famous circuit would look out of place anywhere else on F1’s calendar, as it approaches twenty years as the opening round. A round which has drivers look forward to it with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. A good result here can signify a victorious campaign – just as Mika Häkkinen, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have all shown as they lifted Driver’s Championships. A poor one and teams are playing catch up already.

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Crashing Out in Oz. Credit: Matthew F

Because of this Melbourne has produced some shocks. Sift through the results over the last two decades of Albert Park and a variety of the sport’s smaller brands, ranging from the likes of Minardi, Stewart and Jaguar.

When less barriers existed to entry, these small privateers often punched above their weight, but none more so than Ireland’s Jordan. After competing in lower levels of motorsport, Eddie Jordan’s eponymous outfit burst onto the scene in 1991 before their 2005 sale and official end in 2006 on being renamed Midland F1.

Although based at Silverstone, F1’s only Irish team were hard to miss. Predominately bright yellow mixed with black and a large hornet for a logo they stood out in a sea of red, dark blue and grey. The organisation pioneered online content during the late nineties tech boom, launched energy and vodka drinks and even proposed a reality TV talent search based around F1 – awarding the winner a racing deal.

Jordan F1 even had the inevitable link up with the Katie Price ‘Jordan’.

There were also defiant methods of blocking out their long running sponsorship with Benson and Hedges were also used. In countries where tobacco advertising was not permitted individual letters would be blacked out to read ‘Be On Edge’ or be replaced altogether with slogans like Buzzing Hornets, a reference to the aforementioned yellow and black.

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Behind the scenes on race day. Credit: IoW_Sparky

But to simply take Jordan at face value would do reality an injustice. Their back story and business practices off the track were at times surpassed in their results. Early years saw the steady building of a team, helped in no small way with Michael Schumacher, Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello cutting their teeth with the upstart outfit. However, towards the end of the decade that steady ascent had manifested itself into regular podium finishes.

A working agreement with Honda provided the foundation for the next level as for the first time engine, chassis and driver in the form of Heinz-Harald Frentzen brought the team and unlikely third place in the constructor’s championship. Frentzen was even at one point in a position to challenge for the title, but the might of Ferrari and Mercedes put paid t that.

The close of the millennium was to be the highest point of Jordan, as the once steady build trans versed to steady decline. Within a couple of years Frentzen would acrimoniously depart. Brief flashes of potential would emerge at times with points scores and, of course, Giancarlo Fisichella’s unlikely victory during the 2003 season in Brazil.

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A Jordan in flight. Credit: Paul D’Ambra

Jordan continued to blood rookie’s in the hopes of finding the sports next big thing and even if the team was not sold until 2005 the writing was on the wall after a failed court battle with Vodafone over an alleged sponsorship agreement that the latter backed out on.

It is of course somewhat ironic that a nation which has never had car manufacturing as an industry and only small amounts of motorsport could produce not only a team at the highest level but one that to this day retains cult status. Ireland has had few clubs or teams compete amongst the elite in any sport internationally and no matter what the future holds, none will ever be as interesting as Jordan Grand Prix.

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Colm Ryan