From the pulpit

One thing is sure: the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix was the last-ever grand prix contested by a team called Jaguar Racing. The grand scheme hatched by one-time Ford head honcho Jac Nasser, the last truly visionary Dearborn CEO, has failed - and Jaguar's high-performance S-Type R, XJ-R and XK-R road cars, named so as to echo the R prefix in the F1 cars' nomenclature, now mean nothing whatsoever. What a pig in a poke!

From the pulpit

What is not quite sure, however, is whether the salt-of-the-earth lads and lasses who were always Jaguar Racing's greatest asset have contested their last grand prix together. The mood in the Interlagos paddock was sombre indeed - understandably, although the pluckiness with which managing director Dave Pitchforth and his team went about their business in those decrepit garages and offices was truly inspirational, I can tell you - but it ain't over till it's over. And it ain't over. Not quite yet.

Tony Purnell, CEO of PPD (Premier Performance Division, a wholly Ford-owned subsidiary which encompasses Jaguar Racing, Cosworth Racing and Pi Group), has worked tirelessly all year to find potential buyers for Jaguar Racing - and has succeeded. Twice. Each time, the senior bean-counters on the Ford board - to wit, CFO Don Leclair and VP Allan Gilmour - have scuppered the deal at the 11th hour, their defensive paranoia snuffing out the entrepreneurial flair of anyone who might try to improve Ford's woeful balance sheets by methods more adventurous than closing plants and laying people off. Well, it looks that way anyway.

Perhaps Gilmour and Leclair really do believe the maxim whispered to them in their infancy by their grandmothers: "If you look after the pennies/cents, the pounds/dollars will look after themselves." In the real-life world of international capitalism, of course, you'll never earn any dollars/pounds if you spend your whole time trying to save cents/pennies.

As I say, Purnell has already found and delivered two potential saviours of Jaguar Racing - Red Bull (whose CEO, Dietrich Mateschitz, actually shook hands on a buy-out deal with Ford president Nick Scheele in August, only to have his plan axed by the gruesome twosome who earn their million-dollar salaries by counting beans). One can only guess at how embarrassed poor Scheele was by that sorry little episode.

And, later, Purnell persuaded the government of the People's Republic of China, no less, to buy the team - it almost looks as though Ford's so-called capitalists couldn't stomach doing a deal with a bunch of commies.

Now, as you read this, the 350-odd employees of Jaguar Racing are drinking in the last-chance saloon. This week, their team will either be sold (ie, saved, and rightly so) or closed (ie, sacrificed in order to shore up Ford's share price).

There are buyers out there. There really are. But is there a seller? That is the question.

And if there isn't - if Ford decide to close the doors rather than accept the offers of those who would embrace the fine men and women of Jaguar Racing and pay them to do what they do well (ie, design, build and run race cars In F1) - then I think petrolheads everywhere should boycott products carrying the famous blue-oval badge, just as people who care about animal rights tend to refuse to eat Big Macs.

But the fat lady hasn't yet sung. There's still hope. Keep everything crossed...

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