The sale of Jaguar Racing and Cosworth closes the book on Blue Oval’s GP glories
Ford management’s decision to pull the plug on its involvement with the beleaguered Jaguar Racing team at the end of the season — and its sale of Cosworth Racing — will mark the end of the Blue Oval’s involvement in Formula One. Its connection stretches back to 1967 and the iconic DFV that won 155 grands prix.
Ford vice-president Richard Parry-Jones said: “As we’ve spent so long in motorsport, our credentials are well established, so the value and fit of F1, given its current costs, means that we have not been able to construct a compelling business argument [to continue].”
This judgement, described by Sir Jackie Stewart at the Chinese Grand Prix as being “short sighted”, was announced as Ford strives to cut its losses across the board by $1 billion: it will save $50 million (£28m) per annum from not backing Jaguar Racing. This move, combined with the departure of sponsors HSBC, Becks and Red Bull at the end of 2004, has made the team’s future precarious unless a buyer is found.
The news comes only weeks after insiders leaked plans of the team’s rebranding under the Ford banner… only for Detroit’s senior staff to get cold feet.
Former Ford motorsport boss Stuart Turner mirrors the thoughts of several industry insiders, saying. “One of the faults that we have in this cloistered little world of ours is that it’s easy to get very blinkered about the sport. When you work in motor racing you’re sometimes guilty of not being aware of what is going on in the real world. The commercial realities for car manufacturers are simple: sell lots of cars and you might just make money. To believe in the saying ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ is naive.
“It amazes me that the different branches of motorsport are incapable of fixing dates for the following year let alone 2008: a professional brass band would know exactly where it’s booked to perform in three years’ time so why shouldn’t F1 be any different?
“That Ford has pulled out really isn’t that much of a surprise. It can’t hope to sustain programmes in so many branches of motorsport for long. It’s all down to how many actually see your product, or your name in action, and can tally the association: I mean, Manchester United could compete everywhere from the pub league upwards and people would still watch, but not in the same huge numbers as in the Premiership.”
Johnny Herbert, the last man to win for Ford, with Stewart in the 1999 Luxembourg GP, commented: “There’s no sadness because Jaguar has never shown its teeth — it’s just had its nails clipped. It wasn’t really doing Ford any good.”
Were a buyer to be found for the Jaguar squad, Cosworth’s fate would be uncertain. It’s understood that General Motors could be a potential suitor. It has a long-standing relationship with the Northants-based engine-builder and last year canned its own in-house IRL engine in favour of a Chevrolet-badged Cosworth unit.
If a purchaser isn’t found soon, Jordan and Minardi’s hopes of making the opening round of next year’s Formula One world championship could be seriously hindered.
Is it all going Oval-shaped?
Ford/Cosworth GP stats
First GP win 1967 Dutch
Last GP win 1999 European
Constructors’ titles 10 (1968-74, ’78, ’80-81)
Drivers’ titles 13 (1968-74, ’76, ’78, ’80-82, ’94)