Jaguar Racing's recent restructuring was completed on Tuesday when Ford announced the departure of team principal Niki Lauda. The Austrian, who took over the job from Bobby Rahal in August 2001, will follow the fate of under achieving drivers Eddie Irvine and Pedro De la Rosa.

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Lauda joined the American car manufacturer as head of their Premium Performance Group (PPG) in February 2001 before taking over from American Bobby Rahal as Jaguar team principal six months later and oversaw the under-performing team's efforts in the last few races of last year and the whole of the 2002 season just ended.

"Niki Lauda is relinquishing his role as head of PPG and Jaguar Racing," Richard Parry-Jones, head of Ford's Formula One programme, said. "I have asked Niki to fulfil the role of special advisor to me and I very much hope he will accept the post."

Lauda will be replaced at the top of PPG by Tony Parnell, another member of the Jaguar team hierarchy. Lauda's departure means Jaguar are now searching for their fifth team principal since January 2000, after former world champion Jackie Stewart, Neil Ressler, Rahal and Lauda.

"We recognise that it is a key appointment and we do not want to leave it open for very long," said Parry-Jones.

Lauda told Austrian television: "I am surprised by this decision that was made last night."

Jaguar, with just eight points, finished seventh in the constructors' championship last season and have replaced highly-paid drivers Briton Eddie Irvine and Spaniard Pedro De La Rosa with Australian Mark Webber and Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia for 2003.

Jaguar entered F1 in 2000 after buying Stewart's eponymous team but have never won a race despite a substantial financial investment and several changes in key personnel.

Ford reiterated their commitment to the team ahead of the U.S. Grand Prix in September, but 40 to 60 redundancies were announced last week.

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