PEOPLE: GORDON COPPUCK
Name: Gordon Coppuck
Nationality: Great Britain
Gordon Coppuck trained as an aviation engineer and worked at the National Gas Turbine Establishment in the early 1960s. His hobby was motorcycle racing and he was quite successful in grueling endurance trials events, winning a gold medal in an international race in 1961. In 1965 he was recruited by a former colleague Robin Herd to join the design team at Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd. in 1965. He assisted Herd in designing the successful CanAm cars of the late 1960s and the less successful F1 machinery. When Herd left the company in 1968 Coppuck worked alongside Jo Marquart, producing a string of successful Formula 5000, CanAm and Indycar designs. When Marquart left in 1971 Coppuck became chief designer but chose to concentrate on designing cars for the USAC series leaving Ralph Bellamy to design the F1 machinery. Coppuck's M16 began winning races in 1971 with Mark Donohue winning both Pocono and Michigan that summer. The following year Donohue won the Indianapolis 500 and Gary Bettenhausen and Roger McCluskey added further victories for McLaren.
Coppuck then turned his attention to Formula 1 and designed the McLaren M23 which first appeared in 1973. It was a success with Denny Hulme winning the Swedish GP and Peter Revson winning in Britain and Canada. In 1974 Hulme was joined by Emerson Fittipaldi and the Brazilian won the World Championship with three victories while Hulme won once in Argentina. At the end of that year Hulme retired and was replaced by Jochen Mass. Fittipaldi fought Niki Lauda for the World Championship (winning twice but losing the title) while Mass won the controversial Spanish GP.
Fittipaldi then quit to run his own team and James Hunt was hired to partner Mass. Hunt won the World Championship and figured strongly in 1977 with the new M26. In 1978 the M26 was not competitive and the M28 which followed in 1979 was little better. The M29 in 1980 was a disaster and the hurriedly-produced replacement M30 did little better.
At the end of the year Marlboro engineered a merger of the old McLaren team with Ron Dennis's Project Four Racing and Coppuck departed to join his old friend Robin Herd at March Engineering. He designed an IMSA sportscar for March, worked briefly on the ill-fated RAM March F1 project and did the groundwork for a March Indycar. In the autumn of 1981, however, he joined forces with March's F2 team manager John Wickham to establish Spirit Racing. The team ran in F2 in 1982 but soon began preparations to enter F1 with Honda engines.
Wickham and Coppuck knew that the engines would go to Williams in 1994 but hoped that they would be able to survive without Honda. The team did not and Coppuck went back to March where he designed Formula 3000 cars until 1987 when Herd began planning a new F1 program. When Adrian Newey was taken on as chief designer Coppuck transferred to the Porsche CART program and achieved some success with Teo Fabi's victory at Mid-Ohio in 1989. The program ended in 1990 and at the end of the year Coppuck joined forces with some of his colleagues to establish a design consultancy business called Adrem, which was based in Bicester. In 1991 and 1992 he helped the struggling Leyton House F1 team and then went to America in 1993 and 1994 to engineer Mark Smith in CART. He joined Arciero Wells in 1995 as technical director.
Gordon's son Frank is also an F1 designer.