Jag bosses praise Irvine for bullish drive

Jaguar Racing bosses Niki Lauda and Bobby Rahal have lavished praise on their controversial lead driver Eddie Irvine - even though he failed to finish the French Grand Prix

Jag bosses praise Irvine  for bullish drive

The straight-talking Jaguar overlords saw Irvine put in a gusty performance to reach sixth after outfoxing and outracing a series of drivers to put the 'big cat' team in with a chance of scoring points

But the Ulsterman's hopes went up in smoke when, 55 laps into the race, his Jaguar's engine blew due to pneumatic valve problems.

"It was great fun racing like that," said Irvine. "It was very satisfying to come through the field and scrap for points the way we did. Big shame about the way it ended though!

"I shoulder some of the blame for not doing a better job in qualifying - but I couldn't have driven harder in the race. And to end up fighting for points when we started 12th shows we are capable of better things."

Despite not finishing, Irvine did enough to impress his bosses, who were happy enough to see the potential of the Jaguar R2 which has improved dramatically since aerodynamic revisions were introduced for the Monaco Grand Prix in May.

"Eddie drove a perfect race," said Lauda, who is chairman of the Premier Performance Division, which includes Jaguar Racing, Pi technology and Cosworth. "He passed many cars and drove very aggressively but unfortunately the engine blew up.

"It would have been a positive step forward for Jaguar, but it is not a positive thing when you don't finish a race. From the speed point of view it was. He would have driven into the points and this is what we are here for."

Jaguar Racing CEO Rahal added: "Eddie drove a magnificent race and I think he has overtaken more people this year than anybody else. We learned the same lesson as we did at the last race - we need to qualify better.

"The car needs more work but the potential is there. We lost a point today - maybe even two."

Irvine's team mate Pedro de la Rosa was also plagued by mechanical gremlins and came to halt on the formation lap, but was able to get the car re-started after receiving instructions from the team over the radio and went to finish a distant 14th.

"Pedro had a problem with his electric throttle on the warm-up lap so therefore the car stopped," said Rahal. They had to reset it. He got it going again but did lose a lap."

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