Many know the story of St. Patrick, who drove the snakes from Ireland. Patrick is known as that country’s patron saint – despite never officially being canonized by the Catholic Church. Regardless, there is a worldwide observation rivaling New Year’s Eve in revelry as we celebrate the “Apostle of Ireland.”
In the last 70 years, in the modern age of Formula One, Ireland has had a few heroes. Six drivers contested the world championship under the Irish tri-color flag: Joe Kelly in the very first two seasons; Derek Daly, David Kennedy and Tommy Byrne in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and Eddie Irvine and Ralph Firman in the 1990s and 2000s.
There is one particular Irishman, however, who transcended Formula One with his Irish pride – and with his team’s four victories he saw the Irish Anthem played during the podium ceremonies for the constructor: Team owner Eddie Jordan.
Jordan Grand Prix, Jordan’s eponymous effort, which ended with the sale to Midland Group in 2005, had racing history going back to 1991. He even gave a young upstart named Michael Schumacher his first F1 ride.
Edmund Patrick Jordan, now 70, began racing karts in 1971 and moved up to through the ranks to Formula Ford through British Formula 3. By 1980, Jordan had abandoned driving in favor of team ownership and management. Numerous drivers came through Eddie Jordan Racing and Jordan Grand Prix. Their names include Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill, Michael and Ralf Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and many others who went on to stellar careers.
Eleven years of success in F3 and Formula 3000 inspired the Irishman to move to the big show. Founding Jordan Grand Prix in 1991, the team’s drivers featured Frenchman Bertrand Gachot and Italian veteran Andrea de Cesaris. The Gary Anderson-designed Jordan 191 was reasonably successful, scoring 13 constructor points and landing the Jordan team fifth in the standings.
Jordan’s team became the big news prior to the 11th round of the 1991 season, the Belgian Grand Prix. Bertrand Gachot was sent to prison in England for two months for assaulting a London taxi driver with tear gas. The team brought in a young, unknown German driver by the name of Michael Schumacher. Schumacher qualified seventh for his debut, and despite blowing the clutch on the start, was quickly snapped up by Benneton for the next race at Monza. Jordan sued – but lost the case as he had no formal contract with the German. As is often said, “the rest is history.”
Jordan was a beloved character in the F1 paddock. His rock n’ roll attitude, Irish pride, underdog image — and skills behind the drum set – endeared him to fans and insiders alike. After selling the team in 2005, Jordan became a very popular broadcaster with BBC Sport, beginning in 2009.
1996 Formula One World Champion, Damon Hill was subsequently dropped by his Williams team. After a year at Arrows, Eddie Jordan recruited the second-generation champion to drive for his team — and play guitar for his band. In 1998, Hill would score Jordan’s maiden victory in Belgium. However, the organizers did not have an audio track of the Irish National Anthem to play during the podium celebrations, so played the British Anthem “God Save the Queen” for the constructor victory. For future wins, Jordan made sure that his “country’s” anthem was in the audio cart. Heinz-Harold Frentzen would win in France and Italy in 1999. The fourth and final victory for the team was scored by Giancarlo Fisichella in Brazil in 2003.
Jordan’s lineage and DNA remains in F1 today. The Midland Group, which originally bought Jordan, later sold the team to Spyker, which later sold to Force India. The team next was purchased by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll and is now known as Racing Point F1 – and still operates out of the former Jordan headquarters at Silverstone.
You can be assured that the famed team owner is observing the St. Paddy’s Day tradition somewhere. With no F1 in the foreseeable future, it might be a pretty monumental party.