Today we wish a happy birthday to three drivers: Tarso Marques, Jenson Button and Karun Chandhok!
It is also 52 years since the Cooper team and the Climax engine took their first Grand Prix victory, at the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix.
Born into a well-off Brazilian family, 35-year-old Tarso began karting at the age of 11, achieving considerable success in regional championships before making his open-wheeler debut in Formula Chevrolet at the age of 16.
He won the title first time out – beating future IndyCar stars Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan – and leaped into South American F3, where he became the youngest driver in history to win a Formula 3 race, aged only 17.
But how on earth his motorsport career didn’t take off beyond that is a mystery, and 26 outfits with Minardi spanning six years with not a single championship point perhaps doesn’t do his record justice. He debuted with the little Italian team in 1996 at the two South American rounds, and returned with the outfit mid-season in 1997 for a further ten races.
Out of a drive for 1998, he moved to the United States and was picked up the Penske team for a few outings in the 1999 CART series, which extended to a near-full-time campaign with Dale Coyne the following year. His best CART finish was ninth.
Back with the re-formed Minardi in 2001 – now under the ownership of Paul Stoddart – Marques was drafted in to be the experienced guide for a rookie called Fernando Alonso. But the young Spaniard summarily outperformed Marques – who swiftly started to receive the lower-spec equipment – and the Brazilian made way late in the season when it became clear that the team needed more funding.
After two more unimpressive seasons in ChampCar – where he only drove four races – Marques headed to the world of touring and stock car racing in his native South America.
Click here for Tarso Marques’ complete F1 results.
The team responsible for the switch to rear-engined cars in Formula 1, the Cooper team secured back-to-back Drivers’ Championship crowns for Jack Brabham in 1959 and 1960.
But the team’s history began before World War II, when Charles Cooper built his son John a racing car powered by a 500cc motorcycle engine, whose chain-driven powerplant had to have the power unit close to the driven rear axle, meaning the cockpit was placed at the front.
The cars proved a success, and before long, Cooper was designing plenty of Formula 3 cars, and there began the exploration of rear-engined design applications for more powerful racing cars.
By 1955, Brabham debuted an experimental mid-engined Cooper at the British Grand Prix, and the design philosophy was more regularly applied from 1957 onwards under the new Formula 2 regulations. The car handled much better than its front-engined rivals, but it lacked the power to do any real damage.
But for 1958, Rob Walker – the heir to the Johnny Walker whiskey empire – ordered new Coventry Climax engines, bought a Cooper chassis and hired Stirling Moss, who won at Argentina in his rear-engined T45. It was the first World Championship victory for Cooper, Climax engines and a privateer team.
Proving it was no fluke, Maurice Tritignant won the Monaco Grand Prix (pictured left) later that year, and so began the rear-engined evolution.