PEOPLE: RON TAURANAC
Name: Ron Tauranac
In 1946 Ron Tauranac and his brother Austin built his first racing cars in Australia. They called them Ralts - the name being formed by their initials. Tauranac raced these in Australian events, competing against a young Jack Brabham. When Brabham went to Europe, Tauranac stayed in touch and built a couple more Ralts in the late 1950s, while he worked as an engineer for the Quality Castings company. In 1960 Brabham invited him to England to work at Jack's garage in Chessington, fitting Climax engines into Triumph Heralds. In 1961 he and Brabham decided to build their own cars and Tauranac designed the MRD Formula Junior car. The following year Brabham left Cooper and he and Tauranac began building cars for a variety of different formulae. The business was a big success and by the mid 1960s Brabhams were winning in all the major categories.
When success became more difficult at the end of the decade, the Brabham teams began to struggle although the customer car business continued to be successful. Brabham retired from racing at the end of 1970 and went back to Australia, selling MRD to Tauranac, but Ron was tired and in 1972 he sold the company to Bernie Ecclestone. He stayed in England briefly, designing the Trojan T101 Formula 5000 car and being involved with the redesign of Frank Williams's Politoys F1 chassis. He then retired to Australia.
In 1974, however, he was back in England where he opened a small workshop in Woking and produced the Ralt RT1, which was designed to be raced in Formula 3, Formula Atlantic and Formula 2. The first major Ralt victory came in 1975 when Larry Perkins won the Monza Lotteria. The Australian went on to win the inaugural European Formula 3 Championship for Ralt. The following year Bertram Schafer won the German title in a Ralt-Toyota and in 1977 Anders Olofsson almost won Tauranac a second European F3 title while the only championship success was in Italy with Elio de Angelis.
The 1978 season was a great success with Jan Lammers winning the European series, Derek Warwick and Nelson Piquet each winning a British F3 title and Schafer winning a second German title. The F2 version of the RT1 finished second in the 1977 European Championship in the hands of Eddie Cheever.
In 1978 F1 team owner Teddy Yip asked Tauranac to design a Theodore F1 car, but the TR1 was not a great success although Keke Rosberg used his remarkable driving skills to win the International Trophy in one of the cars in very wet conditions. In the dry the car was not so good and was abandoned.
For the 1979 season Tauranac designed two new cars: the RT2 for F2 and the RT3 for F3. The first was supplied exclusively to Toleman Motorsport and Brian Henton won three times in the car, although he was disqualified from one of the victories. The RT3 became the dominant F3 design of the early 1980s, winning the 1983 European title for Pierluigi Martini, five consecutive British F3 titles in the hands of Stefan Johansson, Jonathan Palmer, Tommy Byrne, Ayrton Senna and Johnny Dumfries. It won the French title in 1982 with Pierre Petit and a string of German and Italian titles. An alliance with Honda in Formula 2 resulted in the RH6 Formula 2 car in 1980 and this was to proved enormously successful, Ralt Racing winning the European F2 title in 1981, 1984 and 1985. Ralt then entered Formula 3000 and enjoyed more success in the late 1980s although not with the dominance of the Ralt-Honda days.
In Formula 3 the RT3 was followed by the RT30 with which Mauricio Gugelmin won the 1985 British F3 title. That year Tauranac announced plans to enter Indycar racing but the program was called off. Competition from Reynard meant that Ralt began to struggle in F3 and F3000 and in October 1988 Tauranac sold the company to the March Group for £1.25m.