To celebrate St Paddy’s Day, Badger didn’t have too far to look for a fitting link between the green isle and Formula One. Ladies and Gentleman, we give you Eddie Jordan, or at least Badger’s super tribute to the man and legend.
You know, let’s just say a little bit about Jordan Grand Prix, as a prelude to this “life and times”. Its Alumni list reads like a veritable who’s who of Formula One greats, with staff members including Sam Michael, Mike Gascoyne and Rob Smedley and drivers such as Eddie Irvine, Barrichello and Damon Hill. That’s not to forget that Jordan were the first team to try out the then little-known Herr Michael Schumacher. According to Eddie’s Autobiography – An Independent Man, “The first time I watched Michael Schumacher race, I was not particularly impressed… Michael’s performance that day in 1990 had not cased a raising of the eyebrows.” It seemed however, enough to give the German his first shot in the big time with a drive in the Jordan 191 for the eleventh round of the 1991 World Championship in Belgium.
From the sometimes tactless but always energetic and knowledgeable Irishman that greets us on Sunday afternoon in his white trousers and flamboyant shirts, there would be little to suggest that Eddie Jordan has been so instrumental in making Formula One the sport of kings as it exists today. Indeed, before the heavily commercialised and crass “F1 Rocks”, F1 actually rocked, to the tune of Jordan. And perhaps in retrospect, it’s no surprise that Eddie left the sport when he did; Formula One just doesn’t sound like it’s as fun, compared to the heady days of old.
“As the Jordan came off the last corner, a banked 180-degree right-hander, it rolled to a halt just short of the chequered flag, Andrea was out in a flash and, urged on by me, he began to push the car towards the line. Then Ron Dennis pointed out that this was totally illegal.”
Such a great story and in the end, after a lot of drama, Eddie and with a bit of “well-wishing” from Mr Ecclestone, managed to convince the stewards that on the grounds of safety, the only option was for Andrea de Cesaris to push the 191 over the line and out of the way. It was their second consecutive points finish, and all in their first competitive year.
But how on earth did this motley crew ever make it into Formula One? Eddie Jordan is still, by all accounts, known as a bit of a chancer. It’s an Irish stereotype applied to a man with much greater intelligence than the label gives credit. Jordan made a name for himself in F3 and later F3000 (the precursor to GP2), but years before that, Jordan was an amateur racer turned wheeler-dealer with a great eye for a bargain, and ridiculous gift of the gab.
“Someone might come in for a loan to buy a car. I would ask them what particular year and model they had in mind. Then I’d say, ‘Well that’s a stroke of luck. I know where there’s a car exactly like the one you want. Leave it with me.’ I would be on the phone to the dealers until I found a car that matched the requirements and away we would go.”
It was an attitude that he seemingly carried with him the whole way into Formula One, whether it was getting Jean Alesi on the cheap by waiting for Marlboro to finish their contract with him or losing Schumacher’s contract to Benetton but persuading Flavio to pay for a room at the £300 per night Villa d’Este.
Eddie’s life in Formula One has been a rollercoaster ride, admitting even on Sunday that “he must have been mad” to try and run an F1 team. After 250 races, 4 victories and a best finish of 3rd in the championship, Jordan may not be the most successful team principal in the sport, but certainly he is the most colourful and admired.
There’s much more than an article’s worth of anecdotes on the epic man that is Eddie Jordan, and in the future, we’d like to catch up for a cuppa with the man, but in the meantime, you can check out his awesomely funny and interesting autobiography “Eddie Jordan – An Independent Man”.
Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all.