The legendary Formula 1 car designer and engineer, Ron Tauranac, has passed away at the age of 95.
While today Adrian Newey is considered the design guru of modern-era Formula 1, were one to rewind the clock almost sixty years, the sport was dominated by two design legends.
One was a brash, publicity-hungry Englishman who founded Lotus Cars called Colin Chapman; the other was an unassuming English-born Australian called Ron Tauranac, the man whose car designs propelled Jack Brabham to his third and final championship crown. Today, Brabham still remains the only driver to be crowned World Champion in a car entered under his own name, and he had his designer to thank for that.
While today’s F1 designers are often confined to specialist design roles and form part of an overall design team whose work is done on computer, Tauranac was a one-man show – part of a rare breed who could conceptualise and design an entire racing car with paper and a pencil. Wind tunnels, CAD/CAM and CFD design were still light years away in Tauranac’s era.
From an early age, Ron and his brother Austin were fascinated by building racing cars, naming their very first effort (in 1946) a Ralt, in deference to the initials in their names.
While Austin spent working in design, fabrications and machining, Ron would continue to design and occasionally race his own cars, admittedly not with much success.
But it was through these adventures that he met Jack Brabham, and the pair remained in touch while ‘Black Jack’ carved himself a phenomenal career in Europe. Indeed, Brabham would secretly send design concepts to Tauranac to work on, and many of his ideas would lead to added success on the race track for Brabham.
In 1960, Brabham hankered after setting up his own Formula 1 team, and he invited Ron to join him in the UK to act as the design brain behind the operation.
Together, the pair convinced Australian group Repco to build bespoke engines for their F1 project, and Jack went on to storm to the 1966 World Championship title. A year later, Brabham’s teammate Denny Hulme would repeat the feat.
Brabham would retire at the end of the 1970 season and sold his shareholding in the team to Tauranac, who ran the outfit for a year being selling it on to a certain Bernie Ecclestone. He later went on to set up the Ralt racing car design group, which went on to dominate the junior level motorsport scene for much of the 1980s.
Never a man to seek the spotlight, Tauranac always quietly got on with the job and didn’t suffer fools lightly. Eventually, he consented to a biography, Brabham Ralt Honda: The Ron Tauranac Story, being written about him, and it pulled no punches in profiling this single-minded and driven man.
We at MotorsportM8 were fortunate to land one of the few exclusive interviews Ron ever gave in his retirement, which you can read by clicking here.
We extend our condolences to Ron’s family and friends.