Ford announce end of Jaguar F1 team

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The Independent Online

The demise of Jaguar Racing, announced yesterday with a slackness that was in stark contrast to the engineering excellence which has characterised the team's 2004 campaign, has sent shockwaves through a sport in which at least two other teams are barely keeping their heads above water.

The demise of Jaguar Racing, announced yesterday with a slackness that was in stark contrast to the engineering excellence which has characterised the team's 2004 campaign, has sent shockwaves through a sport in which at least two other teams are barely keeping their heads above water.

After months of speculation over Jaguar's future, it was revealed in Monza last weekend that £1 would buy you the team and Cosworth Racing (but not the electronics arm Pi Research), albeit together with their attendant financial responsibilities.

Yesterday, Richard Parry-Jones, group vice-president of Ford's global product development arm, the motor giant's chief technical officer and the head of their Premier Performance Division, announced the imminent closure of the team only hours after the motor manufacturer had also confirmed plans to axe 1,150 jobs by closing Jaguar's famous Browns Lane assembly plant in Coventry and moving production to Castle Bromwich. Jaguar's heavy losses have upset Ford's otherwise improved balance sheet.

Ford's Premier Automotive Group, which includes Jaguar, Aston Martin, Volvo and Land Rover, made a second quarter 2004 pre-tax loss of $362m (£202m). Ford have also cut their world rally championship programme for 2005. "Jaguar will be withdrawing from F1 effective the end of the 2004 season," Parry-Jones said. "There was no compelling business case to continue the operation. We have to be able to win and we just can't justify the spending."

Formula One's commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone, admitted it was no surprise. "It was inevitable," he said. "They couldn't really afford to be running around at the back of the grid with the likes of Jordan. They should have been up front with Ferrari and BMW, the top teams. I don't think they had the necessary financial investment to be competitive and in my opinion they shouldn't have run this year at all. They obviously have problems and they're closing a factory so it would have been a bit cheeky to keep the Formula One factory going in those circumstances.

"Formula One is a very expensive business these days and we need to reduce the amount of money it takes to be competitive. Teams could still spend whatever they wanted, but the amount of money needed to compete would be less."

The news will hit the struggling Jordan and Minardi teams too, as both have deals to use Cosworth engines in 2005. It also diminishes David Coulthard's chances of finding a drive for next season.

It is likely that the Red Bull drink company will now buy the operation, although their previous attempt to secure a long-term partnership failed when Ford decided they did not project the image they sought in a partner. The head of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, is known to be angry that Peter Sauber, whose team he sponsors, elected to take Jacques Villeneuve for 2005 instead of his protégé Vitantonio Liuzzi, the F3000 champion who impressed Sauber during tests on Thursday. Buying the Jaguar team outright could realise many of the Austrian's aspirations in one stroke.

Big Cat Diary The Jaguar Journey to Oblivion

Based: Milton Keynes.

Team principal: Tony Purnell.

Managing director: David Pitchforth.

Drivers: Mark Webber (Aus), Christian Klien (Aut).

Car: Jaguar R5, powered by Ford-Cosworth V10.

Tyres: Michelin.

Formula One record (as Jaguar): Starts 82, poles 0, wins 0.

First GP entered as Jaguar: Australia 2000. First podium: Monaco 2001 (Eddie Irvine)

2004 season (to date): Seventh overall, 10 points.

Milestones:

1996: Former triple world champion Jackie Stewart sets up new team in his name.

1997: Makes F1 debut in Australian Grand Prix.

1999: Ford take over team and announce name change to Jaguar Racing from 2000. Johnny Herbert wins at Nurburgring, the 175th victory for a Ford-powered car in Formula One, and turns Jackie Stewart into a winner as driver and constructor.

2000: Neil Ressler starts season as team principal before handing over to three-times CART champion Bobby Rahal.

2001: Austria's former world champion Niki Lauda replaces Rahal as team principal.

2002: Lauda sacked in November. Tony Purnell takes over.

2003: Seventh overall.

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