Ayrton Senna was ‘offered 50%’ ownership in bid to lure him to Jordan F1 team

Thomas Maher
Ayrton Senna signs for Williams for 1994.

Ayrton Senna signs for Williams for 1994.

Eddie Jordan has revealed how he was negotiating with Ayrton Senna about joint team ownership at the time of his death in 1994.

Jordan owned his eponymous team that raced in Formula 1 between 1991 and 2005, selling up to the Midland Group during their final season.

Rebranded Midland for ’06, the team later became Spyker, then Force India, Racing Point, and now race as Aston Martin as a direct descendant of the team Jordan first brought into the top level over 30 years ago.

Prior to F1, Jordan had run Eddie Jordan Racing in junior categories such as Formula 3000, British and German F3, as well as European F3.

It was in the early 1980s, at Formula Ford level, that Jordan first became aware of a driver from Brazil whose prodigious talent had already been copped by Van Diemen as he won the Formula Ford 1600 title.

Eddie Jordan recounts first memories of Ayrton Senna

“1982, I had a guy called Jim Wright, who was my scout,” Jordan explained on the Formula For Success podcast, when asked by David Coulthard about the greatest talent he’d failed to sign to race for him.

“I did things in 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 – they 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.

“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.

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“So I went to Snetterton to see him. I remember putting a mark, in my eye, on the esses at Snetterton. It’s 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 [Ayrton] 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 [Rubens] Barrichello onto me, we always remained very good friends.”

Eddie Jordan: I offered Ayrton Senna half my team if he’d drive for me

It was late on in Senna’s life that Jordan and himself began discussions about the possibility of working together at the Jordan F1 team, with the team boss revealing that he had made a significant offer in the form of a stake of ownership to Senna, in order to try lure him as a driver and co-owner.

“He was disillusioned at McLaren. It was before he went to Williams, he just wasn’t happy,” Jordan detailed.

“Believe this 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 be more than doubled.

“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.”

But Senna would tragically pass away in a crash while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, with Jordan pondering what might have been had that day never occurred.

“I always liked Ayrton and it should have happened but, suddenly, he died,” Jordan said.

“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.”