Ex-Formula 1 team owner Eddie Jordan has revealed that he was in negotiations with Ayrton Senna over a deal that would’ve seen the Brazilian become a joint-owner of Jordan Grand Prix.
In conversation with David Coulthard on the pairs Formula for Success podcast, Jordan named Senna as the greatest talent he failed to sign for his eponymous Formula 1 team.
Before breaking into F1, Jordan’s Eddie Jordan Racing competed in junior categories such as Formula 3000 as well as the British, German and European F3 championships.
In the early 1980s, Jordan’s scout brought Senna’s talents to the Irishman’s attention.
“1982, I had a guy called Jim Wright, who was my scout. I did things a different way,” Jordan explained.
“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.
“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.”
Despite his inability to sign Senna in the early stages of his career, Jordan remained hopeful that one day he could bring the Formula 1 legend to his Jordan Grand Prix outfit.
Jordan revealed that at the time of Senna’s death in 1994, the pair were deep in negotiations that would have seen the Brazilian drive for Jordan as a co-owner.
“He was disillusioned at McLaren. It was before he went to Williams, he just wasn’t happy,” Jordan said.
“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.”
The deal would never come to fruition as Senna tragically passed away following a crash while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
“I always liked Ayrton and it should have happened but, suddenly, he died,” Jordan reflected. “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.”