Jordan set fair for first victory

Derick Allsop on the test for Martin Brundle's new team as the Formula One season starts on Sunday
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The freshly applied all-gold livery is appropriate as well as lucrative. This splash of sunlight heralds the dawn of a new era, a coming of age for the erstwhile wet-behind-the-ears kids on the block. Jordan are green no more.

Five years into life as a Formula One team, they have grown to understand the demands and responsibilities of motor racing's senior order. Now, they admit, it is time they asserted themselves as mature and successful members of the grand prix community.

Eddie Jordan, the man who brought his racing dream from Dublin to England, who won just about all there was to win in the lower formulae and then swaggered into the adult world of sport and business with his emerald- clad merry men, prepares for Sunday's opening race of another world championship season, in Melbourne, a changed and chastened leader.

He said: "We have had to rethink our attitude and approach to Formula One. We have found out just how tough it is to break into that top group of teams and there is no question about it, the pressure is on us to deliver this season.

"But I feel we are now ready to do that. We have learned, we have developed and we are going about this the right way. We have the funding and the organisation. We have to win our first race this year and I believe we will do that."

Jordan, based at Silverstone, made an immediate impact on Formula One. Their uncomplicated but effective cars, powered by a Ford engine, carried them to fifth place in their maiden season. It was also the first grand prix car raced by Michael Schumacher.

The prospect of a factory deal lured Jordan into partnership with Yamaha in 1992, but the move backfired. They mustered only one point all season. Another switch, to Hart, lifted them back to fifth after two years, yet they slipped to sixth with Peugeot last season.

A second campaign with the French company ought to be more productive and the sponsorship of Benson and Hedges has provided them with the means to operate, as well as think, big.

Jordan said: "We have done everything but win a race to this point. We've made the podium, had second and third in one race, but making that next step is the big one - and the toughest. We have found out the hard way that getting to the top takes time. We have had to reassess our targets."

He suspects Jackie Stewart, launching a grand prix team next year - ironically in tandem with Ford - will encounter similar difficulties and frustrations.

"It's good for Formula One to have someone of Jackie's stature coming in and I am sure he'll put together a good package," Jordan said. "But it is unrealistic to expect his team to start winning races almost straight away.

"It took Williams something like 15 years to become a major team, and McLaren and Benetton were also around for several years before they had any success.

"I am sure Jackie will have to go through the same process. He'll find Formula One is a different world."

The other significant difference at Jordan this season is the presence of the English driver, Martin Brundle, in place of Northern Ireland's Eddie Irvine, alongside the young Brazilian, Rubens Barrichello. Jordan believes Brundle's influence will prove beneficial to the team as a whole, and to Barrichello in particular.

He explained: "Martin is already having a great impact, and in fact, is probably giving us more input than we can cope with. He has a tremendous well of knowledge and he is bringing that to us.

"We were rubbished by some for taking on Martin. We are, after all, supposed to be the team that gives young drivers their chance. But we can't be a kindergarten all our lives, and we were perhaps missing something - the kind of experience he can bring.

"People question Martin's qualifying, but he is a hard and very fine racer. Remember he beat Senna eight times when he was in Formula Three with us, in '83. With only one qualifying session and the situations that can lumber you with, you need two good racers.

"We've almost had Martin back a couple of times before. He responds to a loving family. He thrives on it. He is a solid team man, and no longer has the fire burning in him for the championship. If he wins it, fine, but at the age of 36 he doesn't feel he has to.

"He's helping Rubens, who realises that. Last year, Rubens was vying with Irvine, looking after number one. They were too similar, too busy with their own agendas. We felt we had to split them for the good of the team. Rubens is like us, at a critical stage. He also knows he has to perform this year."

Jordan sees men under pressure all about him - Damon Hill and Williams- Renault, everyone at Ferrari, everyone at McLaren-Mercedes, everyone at Benetton-Renault. He has a hunch one of his former drivers, Jean Alesi, will come through it ahead of the pack and win for Benetton.

A race win, rather than championship success, will suffice for Jordan this year. Indications in winter testing were encouraging, but then teams have been known to produce distorted performances to secure sponsors' signatures.

Jordan, in any case, is ready to be judged from Sunday onwards. "It's what happens from now on that matters. We've got 16 races to prove ourselves and we are not hiding from that fact. We are facing up to it, to the test and to the truth. And we're determined to deliver."