INDIANAPOLIS -- Bobby Rahal always wanted to be part of Formula One.
He made it to the glamorous globe-hopping open-wheel series only briefly as a driver. Now, he has a clear opportunity to make a major impact on the Grand Prix circuit.
"Yeah, Formula One was my goal when I first got involved in racing," Rahal said Wednesday after being introduced as the new CEO and team principal of F1's Jaguar Racing.
"I was only in it briefly, but I lived in England for a while and I really enjoyed it," Rahal said. "Now I've got the opportunity to really get involved."
Rahal, who owns a team in CART, took on the added duties of interim president and CEO of the American-based open-wheel series in May. He will continue in that duel role until Dec. 1, when he will begin his new job with the team owned by Ford Motor Co.
Neil Ressler, a longtime Ford executive and now the chairman of Jaguar Racing, Cosworth Racing and Pi, an racing electronics firm, will continue in those roles, but give up the day-to-day operation of the team to Rahal for at least the next three years.
"It's a three-year contract, but I certainly hope it's a lot longer than that," Ressler said. "He's shown himself to understand racing at the top level, to have business acumen, get along well with people, to be a good team builder, to have the type of leadership abilities that will help us greatly at Jaguar.
"Doing it the way we're doing it will allow me to focus on the three companies, and it will allow Bobby to focus entirely on running the team. That should be a very compatible and mutually advantageous arrangement. This is the first building block. There will be more to come."
Although he has had a long relationship with Ford, the selection of Rahal to run a Formula One team was something of a surprise.
"I'm sure some people might say what do I know about Formula One?" Rahal said. "I think that misses the point to a large degree. This a company whose main task is to enter motor racing events and to win them and to represent Jaguar Cars in a manner in which Jaguar would wish to be represented.
"It's not like I'm creating a race set-up," he added. "We've got engineers to do that. My task is to take the organization, work with the various components within that organization and to assist in turning it into a winning team."
The team was founded in 1996 as Stewart Racing by former F1 driving star Jackie Stewart and his son, Paul. Starting from scratch, little was expected, but the team matured quickly and showed promise in the second half of last season.
Johnny Herbert gave the team its first victory in the European Grand Prix at Nurburgring and, with Ford on board as the new owner, the newly coined Jaguar Racing finished fourth in the manufacturers' points.
This year, however, the team, with Eddie Irvine and Herbert driving, has struggled to get competitive.
"Believe me I have no illusion about the immensity of this task, irrespective of whether I have Formula One experience in the last few years or not," Rahal said.
The 47-year-old Rahal said he will make a total commitment to the team, moving his family to England.
"I'm ready to take on that challenge," he said. "By moving there, I certainly see that as a sign of my commitment to this effort."
Irvine, on hand to meet his new boss, said, "Bobby's job is to go out to hire the people to get the job done. He's also an ex-driver who can relate to my problems in the race car."
After his brief foray into Formula One, Rahal gained famed in American open-wheel racing, winning 24 races, including the 1986 Indianapolis 500, and three championships in 17 seasons in CART. He retired following the 1998 season.
Rahal has been mostly hands-off on the team he co-owns with TV personality David Letterman since taking over the top job at CART in June, replacing deposed Andrew Craig.
Rahal said he never intended to keep the CART job and added, "I regard my role the last three months in CART as getting the company ready for the next CEO, so he can just come in and get on with the job without having to deal with a lot of the things we've dealt with."
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