PEOPLE: TONY RUDD
Name: Tony Rudd
Nationality: Great Britain
The son of an RAF Officer, Rudd was educated at the Radcliffe School in Wolverton. While still a teenager he helped out at races with Prince Chula's White Mouse Racing and so knew the world of Brooklands and racing before the war. When war came he joined the Royal Air Force and became a Lancaster bomber pilot, flying a total of 27 missions over Europe before embarking on an engineering apprenticeship at Rolls Royce in Derby. He was to play an important role in developing the Rolls Royce Merlin engines. He stayed on at Rolls Royce after the war and earned a BSc degree. While working at Rolls Royce he competed in club racing in an Aston Martin. In 1951he was seconded by Rolls Royce to British Racing Motors to oversee the installation of Rolls Royce superchargers on the BRM V16 racing engines. He stayed at BRM and became one of the team who worked on the P25, often driving the cars himself on the remote Folkingham aerodrome in Lincolnshire. The P25 was gradually developed into a winning car, the first victory in the Caen Grand Prix in 1957 for driver Jean Behra. Rudd was thrust into the limelight in 1960 when Sir Alfred Owen put him in charge of the entire programme and told him that the team would be closed if it was not a success. The P57 with an engine design by Peter Berthon and developed by Aubrey Woods enabled the team to win the World Championship in 1962 with Graham Hill as well as the Constructors' World Championship and in the years that followed BRM was always competitive, finishing second in the World Championships in 1963, 1964 and 1965. With the rules changing to a new 3-litre formula in 1966 Rudd decided on a highly complicated H16 engine, one of the most extraordinary engines seen in F1. It was not a success although Jim Clark managed to give the engine victory at the United States Grand Prix in 1966, ironically in the back of a Lotus. The engine also came close to winning in Belgium in 1967. Eventually BRM accepted that it would be wiser to run a V12 which had been designed for sportscar racing and the H16 was dropped. This was slowed to develop and in the middle of 1969 Rudd left the team to join his old rival and friend Colin Chapman at Lotus where he took the job of Engineering Director and in the years that followed he turned the company into an engine manufacturer as well as a chassis builder. He oversaw the design and development of the Lotus Elite and the Lotus Esprit and in 1974 was made Group Research Director, developing the highly-profitable R&D business for companies such as General Motors, Toyota and Renault.
In the early 1970s, however, Team Lotus had faded in F1 and in 1975 Chapman asked Rudd to put together a group of engineers to completely rethink the Formula 1 car. One of those engineers was Peter Wright, a former BRM man who with Rudd had done some of the earliest aerodynamic work in F1 in the 1960s. Wright began to develop the first ground-effect F1 car and the Lotus 78 returned the team to its winning ways in 1977. The following season the concept was developed further and the Lotus 79 dominated Formula 1 with Mario Andretti winning six races and the World Championship and Ronnie Peterson winning twice. At the same time Rudd and his engineers were involved in developing the Chrysler Sunbeam-Lotus.
In the years that followed Rudd and Wright moved fulltime to Lotus Engineering to work on the development of new automotive technologies. Among the projects was active suspension and a secret direct-injection turbocharged F1 engine for Toyota although the latter project never came to fruition. After Chapman's death in 1982 Rudd played an important role in keeping Group Lotus in business. In 1986 Lotus Engineering was sold to General Motors and soon afterwards Rudd was appointed Technical Director but in the middle of 1989 the chairman of Team Lotus Fred Bushell was arrested and the Chapman Family asked Rudd to take over running the team. He stayed for just over a year and stood down when the team was sold to Wright and Peter Collins. Rudd then worked as a consultant engineer in the automotive industry and as an expert witness in US product-liability cases. He also wrote an autobiography called "It was Fun".