BY Peter Collins
Just imagine the excitement if an Irish formula one team was about to make its debut at the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28, the first race of the 2021 season – surely, it would be front-page news.
Back in 1991, when Eddie Jordan launched his Jordan Formula One team onto the grid for the US Grand Prix in Phoenix, the full extent of that achievement probably wasn’t fully appreciated.
But it was a monumental accomplishment. An Irish team mixing it with such legendary Formula One marques like Ferrari, Lotus, McLaren, Williams, and Tyrrell.
Among such lofty company, the Jordan 191, emblazoned with the distinctive 7-Up livery, stood out on the Formula one grid.
Aesthetically it was a beautiful car and has always been acknowledged as such.
It’s a design that Coleraine’s Gary Anderson must be immensely proud of.
It was commercially appropriate too that the Jordan 191 was green, I’m sure it went some way towards convincing the Pepsi corporation that it was the ideal vehicle to carry the 7-up brand.
For those of us watching from afar, the green car, to put it in simple terms was the Irish car.
Eddie Jordan was flying the flag in a sport we wrongly assumed was well beyond even our most ambitious sporting entrepreneur.
But it was not beyond someone as driven as he was. The sacrifices EJ made to reach the pinnacle of world motorsport are well documented.
A large number of entries for the 1991 season meant pre-qualifying was required to whittle the field down from 30 to 26 cars. The Jordan team was one of those required to try and make it through pre-qualifying.
This was well before we were able to monitor every turn of a wheel with the wall-to-wall coverage we currently enjoy, so, we waited to get the news via Reuters or PA news.
It finally came through, one of the Jordans had made it, Bertrand Gachot scraping through to qualifying proper but Andre de Cesaris had missed out.
It was still good news as far as Irish motorsports fans were concerned. We now had a vested interest in the US Grand Prix.
Gachot was even more impressive in qualifying for the race, extracting all he could from the Ford Cosworth-powered Jordan 191 and placing it a magnificent 14th on the 26 car grid.
The majority of us had to wait for the BBC highlights show to see how the Irish car had fared in its first-ever Grand Prix.
We knew the result, but there was immense satisfaction in watching Gachot steer clear of trouble as many other cars fell by the wayside.
The Jordan bravely survived being raced in anger for 75 of the 81 laps and such was the attrition rate in that punishing US Grand Prix it was good enough to earn Jordan a tenth place finish as the car had completed over 90% of the race.
Fourteen of the 26 starters retired that day, mostly due to early-season gearbox or engine-related gremlins.
These days that tenth place finish would be worth a valuable world championship point, in 1991, it was worth a pat on the back and a well done for being classified in your first Grand Prix.
It meant Jordan left that US Grand Prix safe in the knowledge they had a real race car on their hands and an exciting first season lay ahead.