Ford rejected chance to save Jag

The growing controversy caused by Ford's shock decision to pull the plug on Jaguar Racing last week has taken a fresh twist, with high level sources revealing that the American car manufacturer did have the opportunity to sell the team earlier this year - but rejected it

Ford rejected chance to save Jag

Autosport.com can reveal that Ford's F1 chiefs agreed a deal with energy drinks company Red Bull for the creation of its All American F1 outfit in the middle of the season - but Ford's finance chiefs in the US surprisingly turned the deal down and in the process, left Red Bull in a very embarrassing position.

The moving of Ford's goalposts in relation to the future of Jaguar also meant that a subsequent deal with Asian investors was also turned down by Ford's financial powerbrokers - by which stage it became clear that Ford was only interested in getting out of F1 despite the message it had been telling the team and its prospective partners.

The announcement that Ford plans to quit F1 was made last Friday and has left the sport heading for crisis. There are fears that Jaguar will not be able to find a buyer in the short time left this year, while both Minardi and Jordan are facing up to the prospect of having no engine deals on the table for 2005 with engine specialist Cosworth Racing also up for sale. In a worst case scenario, the F1 grid could be down to 14 cars for the start of next season - which would force some of those teams left having to run a third car.

Had either the Red Bull or Asian deal come off, they would have secured the team's F1 future and prevented an increasing backlash at Ford's decision to pull out and the way it has left the sport in the lurch.

Despite Ford management's conviction that it has made the right decision in pulling the plug, the company could face action under the terms of the Concorde Agreement, the document by which F1 is run.

According to sources, all teams that are signatories of the agreement are bound to compete in F1 until the end of 2007 unless there are 'force majeure' circumstances such as bankruptcy. A team's decision to pull out solely because it wants to and cannot find a buyer is not believed to be a justifiable reason.

Jaguar's managing director David Pitchforth declined to comment about
Ford's decision-making process when asked by Autosport.com, but he did make it clear that the workforce was concentrating solely on the future.

"We've been expecting a decision from Ford for quite a while, and although we are disappointed by what has happened, it has put everything into focus for us," he said. "Everyone is now working extra hard and there has been some superhuman effort at Jaguar and Cosworth. That will carry on as we work to keep the value of the company. Everyone is pumped up and staying strong and focused for the final races of the season."

Work is continuing on next year's car and the first interim model is expected to run at a test in Jerez next week. Pitchforth added: "It will have the R6 transmission and gearbox so we are ahead of the curve. We've been punching above our weight in F1 and we will continue to do that."

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