JANUARY 19, 2001
Jordan launch hijacked by the ghost of Christmas past
EDDIE JORDAN realized that things had gone awry immediately after the roguish, playful New Year greetings in the little media soiree. The first question arrived and for a moment he had the look of a man resigned to his fate. Doubtless the next day's headlines flashed before him, but in the blink of an eye he gamely went about trying to undo some of the damage.
Prior to this Eddie had elected to unveil his new team - Benson and Hedges Jordan Honda - without fanfare. Instead of Riverdancers or the Cirque du Soleil, members of the company who never do their business in the paddock wheeled the Jordan Honda EJ11 out before the flashguns and TV cameras.
Beforehand they were introduced in a short film, telling of anxious weekends spent glued to the TV and Internet watching their team's progress. John Iley, John McQuilliam, Marian Hinson, Alan Richardson, Phil Howell, Dawn Simpson, Mark Ewin and Adrian Smith were not meant to be the stars of the show. They were meant to represent the ‘team behind the team'; a cross section of the 247 people who make everything happen.
Their job was presenting the human face of the company before wheeling out the new car for which, presumably, the media was meant to be slavering in anticipation. The trouble was, though, that the media wanted a story, and to that end Eddie had already obliged when he announced that on the strength of a dismal 2000 season he had cancelled these good people's Christmas knees-up.
Eddie's message was that of a new focus, the poacher turning gamekeeper after winning a works engine deal. "My philosophy was always to keep Jordan a family outfit, but to be competitive in Formula 1 you can't do that," he said, expecting perhaps a hint of regret that his renegade band is now in the big league. No matter how many times he used the word ‘interface', however, nobody was listening. They already had their headlines.
Afterwards came the intimate media conferences, and consequently that moment when Eddie saw his launch meet its Waterloo. Question after question rained in about Christmas parties, and the man in the firing line did his best to retain his newly acquired focus. Far from being the smooth operator at the head of one of the most professional teams in world sport, he was going to be presented to the man in the street as the miserly villain of the piece.
Immediately after EJ's grilling the majority of the journalists present upped and went before the drivers and technical men arrived, they being the national newspapermen who care little for… well, the business of Formula 1. They were already a little peeved that they had been delayed from tapping out their story whilst ‘Scrooge' was quizzed by the racing writers about the changes in his technical staff.
"Who the hell wants to hear about Mike Gascoyne and these people nobody's ever heard of and nobody cares about," said one. "Nobody knows or cares about his bloody drivers either," said his colleague in sympathy.
The problem is that media launches are increasingly the least newsworthy days of the year. It's hard to win headlines with the announcement of a new second tier sponsor or clothing supplier, which is all that F1 teams want to tell you. Not surprising, then, that the slightest crumb of a story provokes a feeding frenzy.
When your miracle new engine is kept so closely under wraps that it is described in 19 begrudging words and the single most revealing statement about the chassis design is that the car's roll hoop is ‘more rounded than the sharply triangulated version utilized in 2000', you have to wonder why they bother at all. To be honest, Eddie must be wondering too.
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