10 Nov 1965
On 10th November 1965, Edmund Irvine Jr. was born in Newotonards, Northern Ireland and would go on to be known by the fans as Eddie. In the first part of his career, the Northern Irish youngster found himself in the spotlight after winning the 1987 Formula Ford title, before doing well in Formula 3000. Eddie then went down the Japanese racing route, getting good results in Formula Nippon (second in the 1993 championship) and also getting the opportunity to race for Toyota in the Le Mans 24 Hours, where he came second in 1994. At the end of the previous year, he had made his Formula 1 debut with Jordan in the Japanese GP, finishing immediately in the points, but mainly making the headlines for a squabble with Ayrton Senna which ended up with the Brazilian punching him. Irvine went on to complete two full seasons with the English team, his best result being a third place in Canada in 1995. At the end of the year, Ferrari selected him to partner champion elect Michael Schumacher. Eddie was much appreciated in Maranello for his loyalty and his working practices, much more in fact than was thought at the time.
His technical sensitivity was usually a help to the team and he never failed to support Michael when necessary, such as at Suzuka in 1997. His best year was 1999, which began with a win in Melbourne, the first of his Formula 1 career. After Michael’s accident in Silverstone, Eddie assumed the mantle of team leader, of which he proved worthy, by winning the very next race in Zeltweg and doing a triple, thanks to the sacrifice of Mika Salo, Schumacher’s stand-in at Hockenheim. Irvine found himself in the lead of the championship and had a real chance of taking the title in the very year he was set to leave Maranello. Ferrari had decided not to extend his contract, preferring to go for Barrichello, who had been Irvine’s team-mate at Jordan. In Sepang, Schumacher’s come-back race, Eddie took his fourth and final win, but it was not enough to guarantee him the title, which would have been something of a miracle. Two weeks later in Suzuka, Hakkinen and his McLaren proved unbeatable and Irvine was left with the consolation of having made a clear contribution to Ferrari taking the Constructors’ crown which had eluded the team since 1983.
Having left the Scuderia, Eddie went to Jaguar which had come into Formula 1 with a very big investment. Unfortunately, the results did not live up to their hopes. The best result in this third chapter of Irvine’s time at the very top level of motor sport was a third place, in Monaco in 2001 and Monza in 2002. Curiously, on both occasions, finishing ahead of him were his two ‘historic’ team-mates, namely Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, at the wheel of Prancing Horse cars, with which Eddie had come close to making it into the pages of legend. At the end of 2002, the Newtonards man decided he’d had enough and hung up his helmet: from then on, he concentrated on business and on enjoying life, proving able to live away from the spotlight much more successfully than many of his colleagues.