Monday, 19 September 2005 19:32
Eddie Irvine (Edmund Irvine)
Eddie Irvine is a former Formula One racing driver. He was born Edmund Irvine on 10 November 1965, in Newtownards, and grew up in Conlig, County Down, Northern Ireland.
His professional racing career began in 1983 and he progressed to Formula Three racing in 1988, before moving on to Formula 3000 in 1989. He got his break in the top of the Formula racing series after he started racing for Jordan in the Formula 3000 series in 1990, and was subsequently picked up by the Jordan Formula One team in 1993.
Irvine was influenced by his parents, who are also involved in motor racing. His reputation increased steadily in Formula One, eventually leading to Ferrari signing him to partner Michael Schumacher in 1996.
1999 saw his most successful season when he took the drivers' championship right to the last race, finishing a close second. He left Ferrari the following year for the new Jaguar Racing team and was the only driver to get Jaguar to the podium in their short F1 history.
He was also noted for his personality, perhaps best described as anti-authoritarian. He finished 6th and secured a point on his debut Formula One race with Jordan in 1993 at Suzuka. This race set the theme of controversy for Irvine that would follow him for the next couple of years. Seeing Ayrton Senna coming up behind him in his rear-view mirror, Irvine allowed him to pass. However, when Senna seemingly did not bother to lap Damon Hill who Irvine was racing against at the time, he felt he was being held up and, amazingly for a rookie against an all-time great, unlapped himself and immediately overtook Hill. Incensed, Senna walked into the Jordan motorhome after the race finished and punched Irvine.
Irvine continued with Jordan through 1994 until 1995, where he was generally quicker than his younger, though more experienced team-mate, Rubens Barrichello. His lack of reliability as well as tendency to get involved in accidents in 1994 did not mirror his speed in the final championship standings.
Irvine's affinity for apparently reckless driving, later mirrored by Juan Pablo Montoya, began to dissipate when he moved to the Ferrari team. F1 sports commentators even changed his nickname from "Irv the swerve" to "Steady Eddie" and "Fast Eddie".
As the Formula One world became more technical and the driver personalities less distinctive, his non-conformist approach was generally appreciated.
Ferrari (1996 - 1999)
In 1998, Eddie Irvine's fitness level was in question as he had suffered from back pain. His seat was adjusted to help combat this problem. Possibly stemming from this, a journalist suggested he was unfit. His playboy image might also have contributed to the journalist's allegation. In stark contrast with the journalist's allegation however, three days prior to the publication of the article, Eddie Irvine had recorded one of the highest levels of fitness of an F1 driver. 
1999 saw Irvine's career reach a peak as, through a combination of circumstance and the culmination of his much improved and matured style and performance during his years at Ferrari, he found himself battling for the World Championship following Michael Schumacher's accident in the British Grand Prix.
Irvine won the season's opening grand prix in Australia in a race with significant attrition and, with consistent points finishes and subsequent good form, was relatively well placed to take up the fight as the team's lead driver alongside Schumacher's replacement, Mika Salo. A controversial victory handed to him by Salo, out of sight of TV cameras in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim followed, although Irvine looked set to pass Salo with or without his help. Following the race, Irvine handed his victory trophy over to Salo as a gesture to show his gratitude.
Further wins in Austria and Malaysia heightened Irvine's title hopes. The normally flawless Ferrari pitcrew had messed up on Eddie's pitstops in two races, causing him a loss of some valuable points that left Irvine's championship lead smaller than it could have been. It did not seem to be part of the Ferrari script that Irvine, and not Schumacher, should become World Champion. The returning Schumacher aided him in Malaysia, letting his team-mate past and then holding up title challenger Mika Häkkinen. Both Ferraris were disqualified hours after the race as a result of a minor aerodynamic irregularity concerning the cars' bargeboards, seemingly handing the title to McLaren's Häkkinen, and the constructors' championship to the British team. However, the decision was later overturned and both cars reinstated in the race results, meaning that Irvine headed into the final round leading the 1999 Formula One World Drivers' Championship.
In the title showdown at Suzuka, only a win could guarantee Irvine the title. In the event, his third place finish behind Hakkinen and Schumacher handed the championship to the Finn.
It is interesting to note, however, that under the current points system in Formula One, Irvine would have won the 1999 championship.
Jaguar (2000 - 2002)
The team learned much from Irvine's experience with Ferrari, but ultimately the Jaguar package was unreliable and uncompetitive. Driving a car not half as quick as most others, and dogged by the reliability problems, he still managed to get podium results in Monaco and Monza.
Friction in the Jaguar camp and his vocal frustration at the lack of positive development of the car resulted in his contract not being renewed. He was considered for a return to Jordan for the 2003 season but, due to that team's financial problems, he was left without a drive. He announced his retirement from Formula One racing that year.
Career after F1
Following the collapse of talks with Minardi in 2005, Irvine is now considering setting up his own Formula One team from scratch. Outside of F1 Irvine is said to have built up a multi-million pound property portfolio, owning around 40 properties throughout the world. He is also the owner of Eddie Irvine Sports, a snooker, pool, kart racing, paintballing and football facility in Bangor, close to his native Conlig.
He is now executive producer of a film being produced about Paddy Mayne.
In May 2006, it was announced that Irvine will be one of the celebrities taking part in ITV's Soccer Aid. In aid of UNICEF, the show will feature an England vs. the rest of the world football match. The teams are to be made up of a mix of celebrities and ex-professionals. Unfortunately, he had to pull out, because of a leg injury.
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