|Jordan 191 Ford|
A successful racer himself, Eddie Jordan was forced to switch to a role as entrant at the end of the 1970s after his funds had dried up. Combining his keen eye for young talent and business savvy, Jordan's team gradually moved up the ranks during the 1980s. Among the drivers that raced for Eddie Jordan Racing in this period were Johnny Herbert, Jean Alesi, Martin Donnelly and Eddie Irvine. By establishing Jordan Grand Prix and subsequently entering Formula 1 in 1991, Jordan made the final step up the ladder.
Stepping up to F1 meant a fundamental change for Jordan as he no longer could rely on cars produced by others and would have to build his own cars. The task of designing the very first 'Jordan' was assigned to Gary Anderson. This was a logical step as Jordan's most recent successes in F3000 were with Reynards that had also been the work of Anderson. To build and run the new F1 cars, Jordan Grand Prix set up shop right across the main entry gate of the Silverstone circuit.
Anderson penned his first F1 car very much along conventional lines. As was the norm by the early 1990s, the monocoque chassis was constructed from carbon-fibre. Suspension was by double wishbones and push-rod actuated dampers and springs on all four corners. The relatively narrow cockpit allowed for a very clean body with low side-pods. One of the more unusual features of Anderson's design was the front wing that extend beyond the raised nose.
To power the new 'Jordan 191', the fledgling manufacturer turned to Ford and its long time engine partner Cosworth. The Blue Oval's 'HB' V8 was reliable and relatively affordable option although not quite as powerful as the V10 and V12 engines used by the top teams. Displacing just under the 3.5 litre limit, it produced around 670 bhp in its latest 'series 4' trim. The compact V8 was mated to a transversely mounted, six-speed gearbox, which used Hewland sourced internals.
The first man to drive a Jordan Formula 1 car was British veteran John Watson, who had already driven for Jordan earlier in his career. Eventually, the team settled for the experienced Andrea de Cesaris and talented Belgian Bertrand Gachot to drive the Ford-powered 191 in its debut season. After a difficult start to the year, the two drivers placed fourth and fifth in the Canadian Grand Prix, earning Jordan Grand Prix' first points in only its fifth race.
The Jordan 191's main claim to fame came at the Belgian Grand Prix where a young German driver was hired to replace Gachot, who had to serve a two-month prison sentence for assaulting a cab driver. This talented substitute was none other than Michael Schumacher, who came with a $150,000 bonus from his employer Mercedes-Benz to build up experience. He qualified a spectacular seventh but was forced to retire with a clutch problem early in the first lap of the race.
Jordan's hopes to retain Schumacher for the rest of the season were dashed as despite a verbal agreement, the young German was recruited by Benetton for the next round. His seat was first taken by Roberto Moreno, who had been ousted by Benetton to make way for Schumacher and later by Alessandro Zanardi. Although Gachot was available for the final two rounds of the season, Jordan opted to stick with his existing driver line-up.
Although best remembered for giving Schumacher his break in Formula 1, the Jordan 191 deserves more credit. De Cesaris had a solid season that saw him finish 9th in the championship. Gachot and Moreno also scored points and the combined tally was enough for Jordan Grand Prix to finish 5th in the constructor's standings in the team's debut season, ahead of seasoned teams like Lotus, Tyrrell and Brabham.
Despite the formidable debut season, Jordan Grand Prix lost their deal with Ford for 1992 and instead had to turn to the considerably cheaper but also hopelessly unreliable and longer Yamaha OX99 V10. This came at the expense of success and in their second year only a single point was scored. The slump in performance would fortunately only prove temporary.
Article by Wouter Melissen, last updated on October 01, 2012
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