Firman Not Reason for Irish Team

Mark Gallagher said that he would have continued with his plans for A1 Team Ireland even if lead driver Ralph Firman had been signed for A1 Team Great Britain

Firman Not Reason for Irish Team

Ex-Jordan and Jaguar Marketing chief Gallagher announced today that he had purchased Ireland's franchise for the inaugural A1 Grand Prix series and signed Firman to be the team's lead driver, despite him being part of rival A1 Team Great Britain's four-driver shootout in May.

Gallagher's company Eden Rock manages Firman and has placed him in the new international single-seater Championship to help propel him back to Formula One. Firman's parentage allows him to represent Ireland, because his mother comes from Newbridge in County Kildare.

Gallagher told Autosport-Atlas that if Firman had been chosen to drive for A1 Team Great Britain he would have moved ahead with setting up the team anyway.

"When A1 GP was launched we knew that there were two countries Ralph would race for," Gallagher said. "We had signed an option with A1 Team Great Britain and should they have chosen Ralph he would have raced for them and A1 Team Ireland would have still gone ahead.

"After I was made redundant by Red Bull Racing in March I took a month off and started planning A1 Team Ireland. I knew this was a good opportunity and interesting idea and have secured all of the funding to make it happen.

"I started planning the team at the beginning of May at the same time as the possibility of Ralph driving for Team Great Britain came up.

"Ralph and I weren't too worried if he didn't get the driver because we had something potentially more exciting lined up. So it was bitter-sweet when they didn't choose him.

Gallagher says Firman, who helped develop A1 Grand Prix's prototype car, is proud of his Irish heritage.

"He raced with an Irish licence in Formula One," stated Gallagher. "He's raced with a shamrock on his helmet. He raced with an Irish team. He has an Irish passport. But, yes, he does have a plumy British accent."

Two A1 Grand Prix rounds clash with Firman's prior commitments with the Japanese Super GT programme. A reserve driver will be called in for these events, which includes the opening round of the Championship at Brands Hatch on September 25.

"The plan is to have a constant driver and build the team around him, which makes competitive sense. For us, that driver is Ralph. But Ralph is committed to his Super GT programme in Japan with Honda and there are currently two clashing rounds."

Gallagher also denied speculation that Irish Motorsport star Eddie Jordan is involved in the squad. He added: "Eddie pointed me in the right direction of some people and is not involved. He has been a friend for many years and offered me assistance, but I didn't even ask him to put any money towards the project.

"When the rumours surfaced that he was going to buy the Irish franchise it was good because it meant the heat was off me. It was natural speculation was going to centre around him, and I hope he comes to a few races."

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