| ||Jaguar is ready to pounce.
"We can take on the biggest and the best," said Jackie Stewart as teams gear up for Sunday's season-opener in Melbourne, Australia. "Jordan finished third in the constructors championship last year, and that is what we should be aiming for this time. I think we can get into that slot. And if the big teams slip up on as many banana skins as they did last year, anything can happen."
Stewart and his son, Paul, founded the Stewart-Ford team in 1997. Last year they sold the team to Ford, which has renamed it Jaguar. While no longer the chairman and CEO of the team, Jackie Stewart is still heavily involved with
Jaguar Racing as an advisor, mentor and sponsorship representative.
Last year, Johnny Herbert scored Stewart-Ford's first-ever grand prix victory. The team finished fourth in the constructors championship. Herbert is back with a new teammate, Eddie Irvine, who joins Jaguar after four years at
"Johnny knows how to win races," Stewart said. "He knows what it is like to bring a grand prix car home, and Eddie is maturing at just the right time for us. Eddie had four years at Ferrari, where Michael Schumacher was number one. It was time for him to move on, and he has by joining us. I believe we can beat the McLarens and Ferraris."
Irvine is a bit more cautious with his outlook on the season.
"We have to rely a little bit on the big two teams having problems," said the driver who finished second to Mika Hakkinen in last year's drivers' championship. "But we have to be in the position so that whenever they make a mistake, we are there.
"It is going to be difficult to compete against Ferrari and McLaren, but in third place you have the Jordan and Williams teams and the likes of them, and they are the guys who are our direct competition."
Irvine's new teammate, Herbert, agrees.
"The Jaguar is a big improvement on last year's car," Herbert said, "But we
can't consistently beat McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari yet because there are a
lot of things that have to change. We have to build up the entire structure
of the team."
Now that it has Ford's backing, the Jaguar team can expand and improve its infrastructure.
"Jackie Stewart is happy that he helped to build the team," Herbert said, "But for the team to succeed it needs to have exactly the same money and backing and wind tunnels that Ferrari and McLaren have. Jackie has always
said he could not do that on his own. So having Ford buy the team is moving in the right direction. Jaguar has set its goal at being world champion and not just winning races."
While it's new to Formula One, the name Jaguar is intertwined with the history of motor sport. Part of that history includes Jackie Stewart, who has had a long association with Jaguar. Until its entry in the Formula One world championship this season, Jaguar
concentrated on sports car racing, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours seven times, the Daytona 24 Hours twice and two World Sports Car Championships.
In 1922, Williams Lyons founded the company that was to become Jaguar. Its first products were sidecars for motorcycles, but by the mid-1930s Jaguar was building road cars, which also were being raced. Two young brothers from Scotland were among those to race Jaguars.
"My brother Jimmy drove a C-Type Jaguar for Ecurie Ecosse in 1953," Stewart said. "Our father, who had a wee garage in Scotland, bought a C-Type Jaguar for Jimmy to race. It was a brand new car.
"Jimmy drove for the Jaguar factory team in 1955, and his first race was driving an Mk 7 in the touring car race at the Daily Express International Trophy spring meeting at Silverstone. He finished second to Mike Hawthorn,
and that very same car six months later won the Monte Carlo Rally.
"The Stewart family business was appointed a Jaguar dealership in 1954, and I grew up learning how to service and to maintain all types of Jaguar. I worked in the garage from 15 years of age until I was 23.
"I drove many Jaguars in my racing career and had quite a bit of success in them. I drove off on my honeymoon in an E-Type Jaguar."
Stewart began his F1 career in 1965 and went on to win three Formula One world championships. He also participated in the 1966 and 1967 Indianapolis 500s. In 1966, he led the 500 by more than a lap when his
engine lost oil pressure with eight laps to go. Stewart, who finished sixth, won Rookie of the Year honors that year.
Stewart will be back at the Brickyard this year for the inaugural United States Grand Prix on Sept. 24 in his role as advisor to the Jaguar Racing F1 team.
|Eddie Irvine, left, and Johnnie Herbert sit on their new Jaguar R1 during the team's unveiling last month.|| |
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