PEOPLE: ROBIN HERD
Name: Robin Herd
Nationality: Great Britain
A graduate of St Peter's College, Oxford, Herd began working at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in 1961 as a design engineer on the Concorde supersonic aircraft project. In 1965 he was recruited by McLaren and his first project was a revolutionary test car, for the Firestone tire company, which was built from an aerospace material composed of plywood and aluminum sheeting which was called Mallite. The first car was fitted with an Oldsmobile V8 engine but a F1 version of the car was built and run in 1966 with both Ford and Serenissima engines. It was not a success. His sportscars were successful in CanAm racing with titles for McLaren in 1966, 1967 and 1968.
Herd designed the McLaren F1 M7 for 1968 before moving to Cosworth to design a four-wheel drive F1 car. This project was canceled and in 1969 Herd joined forces with Max Mosley, Alan Rees and Graham Coaker to establish March Engineering which quickly became a very successful racing car manufacturing business. The company's efforts in F1 were less successful. After a major sponsorship deal with STP ended, the company struggled in F1 but managed to win one race in Austria in 1975 when Vittorio Brambilla scored an unexpected triumph in wet conditions. By the end of 1977 Herd was the only one of the original owners left. He pulled the team out of F1 and concentrated on building customer cars with great success in Formula 2 and Formula 3.
The company made a brief return to F1 in 1981 with the RAM March team but it ended in debacle after just a few months. That year Herd began concentrating on the United States market, winding down his European activities, although the company continued to enjoy considerable success in F2 and F3000. Success in the United States was dramatic, however, with the March Indycars becoming the dominant force in the mid-1980s. As a result of the success Herd floated the company on the Stock Exchange in 1986 - the same year in which he was awarded a CBE for his services to the motor racing industry.
Herd took March Racing back into F1 in 1987 with backing from the Japanese property company Leyton House. He sold the new team to the Japanese company in 1989 and created Robin Herd Ltd., a design office in Bicester. This designed an F1 car but money could not be found to run it and so in 1991 the company became Fomet 1 and supplied the car to the Fondmetal team. In 1992 a new deal was struck with French team owner Gerard Larrousse and the company became Larrousse UK Ltd. Larrousse ran out of money at the start of 1995 and the design bureau became GenTech (UK) and began doing development work for the Forsythe Racing CART team.
That year Herd quit racing and bought the Oxford United soccer team with big plans to rebuild the team's stadium. He also established a company investigating natural ways of producing energy. Neither project was very successful and Herd stood down from Oxford United after two and half years.
In 1999 there was talk of Herd joining forces with Mike Earle to set up a new F1 team but money could not be found although in the autumn of that year Herd announced the formation of an Indy Racing League team called March Indy International.