Jaguar makes leap into Grand Prix arena

The lid was lifted on the worst kept secret in Formula One last month when Jaguar chairman Dr Wolfgang Reitzle announced that the recently purchased Stewart Grand Prix team would be rebranded Jaguar Racing for the 2000 World Championship.

The decision to enter Formula One was taken according to Reitzle as a way "to promote a wider global recognition of the Jaguar brand" although it will not have escaped his notice that the British manufacturer's two biggest rivals, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, will have strong presences in next year's championship with the McLaren and Williams teams respectively.

A newly liveried Stewart F1 car with a hint towards jaguar's racing heritage was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show; although the limecoloured racer won't strike a chord with British Racing Green purists. The team has promised a new colour scheme when the first ever Jaguar F1 car is launched next season, but don't expect to see a dark green single-seater - the demands of sponsors and their logos outweigh the traditional national colour schemes.

Jaguar's presence will, however, be felt immediately by the Stewart team according to Neil Ressler, the Chief Technical Officer of parent company Ford. "Technical input to the Formula One programme will begin straight away," he revealed. "Jaguar's Coventry-based engineering teams can certainly contribute to the racing programme."

Jaguar has no historical link with F1, although Sir Williams Lyons did commission a study into the building of a single-seater at the end of the 1950s. Previous success has been firmly rooted in the sportscar field, where the marque won seven Le Mans 24 Hours and two World Sportscar Championships.

Nevertheless, the announcement that team founder Jackie Stewart will remain as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer retains a link with the marque's early racing heritage. "My family were Jaguar dealers in Scotland," said Stewart, "my brother Jimmy raced for Jaguar and some of my earliest successes were with the lightweight E-type. I have a great fondness for the company and I look forward to helping Jaguar Racing."

With next season's driver line-up now confirmed as current Ferrari number two Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert, the man who brought the Stewart team its first victory at last month's Luxembourg Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, the pieces seem to be in place for an ever-improving 2000.