Mark Twain once claimed that reports of his demise had been exaggerated, after a premature obituary appeared in the press, and team boss Eddie Jordan was mindful of the quote as he unveiled his latest Formula One contender yesterday.

Rumours that the Silverstone-based team may not make it to the start of the season, let alone through its extended 18-race schedule, have been rife during the off-season, but Jordan was keen to point out that his dream was not yet dead and buried.

As if to prove the point to the press, the EJ14-Ford appeared at Silverstone, both for its pre-launch shakedown and the unveiling itself, with the word 'Lazarus' prominent on its sidepods. While the racing world propounded various suggestions as to who the new sponsor may be, Jordan knowingly referenced the biblical character raised from the dead.

"Lazarus is all about coming back from the dead," he told Reuters journalists attending the launch at Silverstone, "As most of the press had us written off for this year, we decided that the reincarnation of Lazarus was probably the most appropriate. It's good to be back and I'm very, very buoyant about this year."

Jordan is still to finalise its line-up for 2004 - the last team to do so - and only has Nick Heidfeld on its books with just a month to before the start of the season.

Jos Verstappen remains the favourite to land the second seat, despite the belief that long-time partner B&H would rather have a Briton in the line-up, and Jordan admitted that negotiations with the Dutchman were ongoing, even though the driver called a halt to them last week. As if to make another point through the livery of his new car, however, Jordan had IT company Trust - a Verstappen backer - prominently displayed.

The fact that he may have to hire the former Minardi driver to help balance the budget is not lost on outsiders, notably F1 guru Bernie Ecclestone, who voiced his displeasure in the UK's Times newspaper on the day of the launch.

"They go on and on about having no money," he said, "They should get their acts together and get sponsors. Maybe if Eddie Jordan spent more time organising his business, people would take him more seriously."

Jordan, however, remains confident that his operation will not repeat the ninth place overall that it languished in last year.

"I have a very good feeling about this car," he said, "We have seen better figures in terms of aero gain on this car than we have ever seen. The gain is there - it's real."

The Irishman, perhaps less ebullient than normal this time around, also vowed to keep his eye on the ball in 2004.

"I'll never let what happened last year happen again," he promised, "I got embroiled in some things that took my attention away, the car didn't get developed and we finished in our worst position in recent years. In the previous ten, we were always in the top six - and I have a promise for you: we will be back in the top six."

 

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