Eddie Jordan claims that he offered Ayrton Senna a 50% stake in his F1 team in a bid to secure the services of the three-time world champion.
The Irishman, talking to the Formula for Success podcast, reveals that he made the move in 1993, at a time the legendary Brazilian was clearly unhappy at McLaren, having previously failed to sign him to his F3 team ten years earlier.
“In 1982 I had a guy called Jim Wright, who was my scout,” says Jordan. I did things a different way, I had Jim doing all the junior races to see who could I come up with for Formula 3, because I always felt that most of the drivers, and that’s why Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert, and Jean Alesi came to me, had very little money.
“But I was strong enough to be able to go out and find money to support the team, and then try and pick the best driver,” the Irishman continues. “So Jim Wright said to me ‘God Eddie, you need to see this guy called da Silva Senna’… he had finished third in the Formula Ford Festival so he was right up there. Then he was dealing with Dennis Rushen, who was Rushen Green, doing Formula Ford 2000.
“So I went to Snetterton to see him. I remember putting a mark, in my eye, on the Esses, a corner that most people can’t take absolutely flat, but this guy was coming through there flat every time, and he never missed this mark with his front left tyre as he turned into the Esses.
“I thought this guy seems to be right on the money in terms of control, understanding the speed, accuracy, and repeatability he was able to do this.
“I tried to sign him for the ’83 season and I couldn’t because he was a Marlboro driver. I hadn’t got enough credits to my name and Dick Bennett was sort of the guru at West Surrey Racing. He was sent there by Marlboro. I tried desperately to sign him. But Dick and I joined together because I got the Marlboro deal for Macau.
“He changed his name after that race. He never drove Formula 3 again, and he changed his name to Senna. Some time after that, he was the one who put Barrichello onto me, we always remained very good friends.”
Moving forward ten years, Jordan recalls the potential F1 move.
“He was disillusioned at McLaren,” he says. “It was before he went to Williams, he just wasn’t happy. Believe it or not, but I offered him 50%, free of charge, to come and drive for Jordan, but he would have to stay on as an owner, because I believed, with Senna in the team, the actual value of the team would more than double.
“So, in other words, the half that I was losing, I thought this would be such a cool stroke. First, I get a guy like Senna in my car, get the team, the recognition of the team, the sponsorship income would multiply by an amazing amount.
“I always liked Ayrton and it should have happened but, suddenly, he died,” says the Irishman. “Now I’m not saying that he would have done it. But we were very far into the negotiations about what he wanted to do. He wanted to have a team and I was giving him that opportunity.”
Fact is, that despite the increasing threat from Benetton and Michael Schumacher, Williams won the constructors’ title in 1994, and went on to win both titles in 1996 and 1997, and it is highly unlikely that Senna would have been tempted.