At least once a year I try to attend one of the Formula One test days at Silverstone, mainly because of the nostalgia trip, the inspiration and that essential ingredient: the noise. It is also the best way of seeing the finest drivers on the most famous race track in the world, completely free of charge.
It is free for spectators as it is held during the working week, and the circuit controllers can never guarantee which teams will be in attendance or how often the drivers will be out testing the cars.
Without doubt the most unforgettable sessions involved Damon Hill test driving for Williams and later when he signed up with Eddie Jordan. In 2005, another memorable occasion was seeing Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso all but racing each other just days before the British Grand Prix.
I had been to one test day where the Jordan Fl drivers, Damon Hill and Ralf Schumacher were out on the track. Then, only a few days later, while walking down St Giles, in Oxford, the team boss Eddie Jordan walked past me. It was one of those coincidental moments that tend to stick in one’s memory.
Edmund Patrick (Eddie) Jordan was born on March 30, 1948, in Dublin. His natural gift as an entrepreneur plus a considerable talent as a racing driver and team leader, eventually materialised as ‘Jordan Racing’, based at Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire, just a 30-minute drive from his home in north Oxford.
As with many Fl stars who began racing karts, Eddie started his driving career in 1970 after becoming inspired by a kart race near Bouley Bay on the island of Jersey.
He had moved to the island that summer, where he was employed by the Jersey Electricity Company. On his return to Ireland he bought a kart and in 1971 progressed to become the Irish kart racing champion, before moving on to Formula Ford 1600 single-seat racing cars.
Eddie’s enthusiasm was brought to an abrupt halt during a Formula Ford Race in 1975 at Mallory Park when he experienced the first major accident of his racing career, suffering injuries that would have put many drivers off racing for good.
However, he came back the following year climbing steadily from Formula Ford to Formula Atlantic.
Eddie won three races in this formula in 1977 driving a March car previously raced by
Formula One champion Alan Jones. In 1978 he celebrated by winning the Irish Formula Atlantic Championship in a Chevron 829.
On January 25, 1979, Eddie Jordan married Mary McCarthy, the Irish international basketball player, creating a strong sporting link within the family.
Apart from sport, Eddie has a tremendous flair for music, and many a post-race party has been livened up by him on the drums and Damon Hill on guitar and vocals.
The Jordans moved from Dublin to Brackley, near Silverstone in 1979. Later that year Eddie realised his ambitions as a racing driver were not achieving all that he had hoped and, while he was driving for Derek McMahon, he found a new string to his bow as a team manager.
This new angle on racing pointed the way to the future and although he did indeed progress as far as having a test drive in a formula one car, he knew that the positive direction to move in was as a team leader rather than a driver. The birth of the couple’s first baby confirmed this decision to be right for the family.
Timothy Collings’s book, Eddie Jordan The Biography is an essential volume for any motor sport enthusiast’s bookshelf. It was first published in 2002 by Virgin Books. In it, Eddie explains that it was an easy decision to retire from driving a racing car because he considered that ‘he was just not good enough’. A debateable point after winning a couple of championships, but he certainly had an excellent perception for team management which he adapted to his own financial benefit.
His experiences of working at the Bank of Ireland, where his ability to survive when things got tough, paved the way for the challenges that lay ahead in managing his own team.
Prior to the big time in Formula 1, the team contested the European F3000 championship from 1985-1991, winning it in 1989 with Jean Alesi.
Eddie Jordan’s break into Formula One began in 1991, but the first major high point of the team’s story has to be when Britain’s last world champion, Damon Hill, and his Jordan team mate Ralf Schumacher, came first and second respectively in a rain-soaked Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps in 1998.