Twins Tower Over Jaguar

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SPIELBERG, Austria - Who is the boss at Jaguar Racing?

In most Formula One teams it is very clear who is in charge. DaimlerChrysler may own 40 percent of McLaren and Mercedes-Benz's racing director Norbert Haug is always around in the McLaren pit, but everybody knows that Ron Dennis is the boss at McLaren. Frank Williams may be in a wheel chair, a legacy of his road accident in March 1986, but he is still firmly in charge at Williams.

Tom Walkinshaw heads Arrows. Peter Sauber calls the shots in his team, and Eddie Jordan and Alain Prost do the same in their squads. When Renault bought Benetton, it named Flavio Briatore as team principle. Craig Pollock is number one at British American Racing, just as Paul Stoddard is at Minardi. The lines of command at Ferrari are clear as Jean Todt is the Sporting Director and he answers to Ferrari's president Luca Montezemolo.

Back in June 1999, Ford bought the Stewart team from Jackie Stewart and his son Paul and renamed it Jaguar. Jackie and Paul were still involved with the team as directors in 2000, but Ford placed one of its vice presidents, Neil Ressler, in charge. But last year Paul had to step down when he was diagnosed with colon cancer and Jackie also went into semi-retirement. Ressler also wanted to retire, so the decision was made to bring in CART FedEx Series team owner and Ford man Bobby Rahal to be the chief executive officer of Jaguar Racing.

But Ford wasn't done yet in changing the management structure of the team. Early this year it hired three-time World Champion Niki Lauda to be the CEO of its Premiere Performance Division that oversees Jaguar Racing.

It all got confusing when both Lauda and Rahal seemed to be calling the shots in the team, making driver decisions and shepherding the 2001 race cars. So, then who is the boss?

Well... they both are.

"My role is very simple," Lauda said. "I am getting tired of explaining my position. The Premier Automotive Group looks after Ford's luxury brands (Volvo, Lincoln, Aston Martin, Land Rover and Jaguar) and this group is headed up by Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle. The motorsport arm of this group is the Premier Performance Division and that's where my responsibility lies. Jaguar is the only brand from the portfolio that is currently active in motorsport and my role aims to bring Jaguar Racing, Cosworth and Pi Electronics into closer synergy. Neil Ressler was in charge of that group and he went into pension, and I took over the job. This is my position and this my full time job."

Lauda moved from Austria to London. By this time he was no longer involved with the airline he created, Lauda Air, having been eased out by the board of directors. At the first Grand Prix in 2001, in Australia, Rahal and Lauda held a press conference and Lauda shocked the media by casually mentioning that Jaguar would promote its test driver Pedro de la Rosa to a fulltime drive in 2002. This was clearly something the team had decided but probably didn't want revealed just yet.

Just last month, Lauda again casually let slip that the team's drivers next year would be Eddie Irvine and de la Rosa. That led to the musical chairs that ended with Jaguar driver Luciano Burti moving to Prost for the rest of the season and de la Rosa getting promoted at Jaguar immediately.

Incidents such as these led to all the confusion. If Rahal was in charge of Jaguar Racing, why was Lauda being so prominent in all of the team's affairs? Who was calling the shots?

"I was part of the driver change," Lauda said. "Irvine as you know is fixed for this year and next year. Burti was with us. It was a good thing in Imola when Prost was asking for de la Rosa to drive and we didn't want to let the test driver go. So in the end Burti was happy to join Prost because he gets a drive for next year, and so we found the solution and everyone was completely happy."

Neither Burti nor Prost have confirmed that who will drive for the team next year, but Lauda seems to know things everyone else doesn’t.

Lauda always had strong opinions and spoke his mind when he was racing. Nothing has changed.

Lauda on Eddie Irvine's playboy image: "I have no problem with him whatsoever. He is doing a perfect job for us in terms of driving the car. What he does off the track I don't really care, so long as he is running here together with de la Rosa. I think they are a perfect team. They are doing nothing wrong. So whether he is a playboy or not doesn't really concern me because he can't take a girl in his F-1 car."

Lauda on this year's Jaguar: "The car itself is not quick enough. It qualifies always around 12th position basically, which is our existing speed. Rahal and myself inherited that car from last year's design office and as you know, technical modification on a car, especially in aerodynamic areas are a long term program, and that's what we are doing."

Lauda vehemently denies rumors of a power struggle between him and Rahal.

"Contrary to the rubbish that is sometimes written," he said. "I am not in charge of Jaguar Racing - that's Bobby's (Rahal) job - not mine. I am not here to reinvent the wheel. It's Bobby's responsibility to run the Jaguar Racing team, but we certainly work like twins together, so if certain things are happening we discuss with each other and then take a decision together."

Who is in charge of Jaguar Racing? Well, it sounds like the twins are.

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