Former British Formula 3 and current Formula Nippon champion Ralph Firman will drive for Jordan Ford this season.

Former British Formula 3 and current Formula Nippon champion Ralph Firman will drive for Jordan Ford this season.

The 27-year old Briton has signed a three-year agreement with Eddie Jordan’s team and will make his F1 debut in the Australian Grand Prix on March 9.

The announcement, which was made by Jordan Ford on Tuesday, ends months of speculation over the identity of Giancarlo Fisichella’s team-mate for the 2003 season. Firman signed for Jordan only after Sauber Petronas test driver Brazilian Felipe Massa, and Jaguar Racing veteran Eddie Irvine failed to secure a contract with the Cosworth-powered team.

Firman is the reigning 2002 Formula Nippon Champion, having previously won the prestigious British Formula 3 Championship and FIA Formula 3 World Cup in Macau in 1996. A Champion kart racer, Firman is also a former winner of the McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Award.

After an initial seat-fitting in the Jordan Ford EJ13 at the team's Silverstone base yesterday, Firman will take part in a test session for the squad at Valencia, Spain, next week.

“He may be a rookie in F1 terms but Ralph brings a lot of racing experience and a formidable track record along with his enthusiasm and commitment,” Jordan said. “I'm impressed with his cool and disciplined approach and I have a lot of confidence that he and Fisichella will be an awesome partnership on the track.”

Ralph Firman said, “I am thrilled to have this chance to race in F1, especially as it is with Jordan, one of the few teams to have won grands prix in recent years.

“Although this will be my first season, I have worked hard to build up my experience while racing in Japan, so although F1 will be something new I feel ready and quite comfortable with it. I am really looking forward to going to Melbourne next month.”

Ralph Firman was born on May 20 1975 and holds dual nationality, with a British father and Irish mother, and lives in Norfolk, United Kingdom. His father, Ralph Firman Sr, was a mechanic for former triple World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi before founding the famous Van Diemen racing car business.

Original article from Car