PEOPLE: KEN TYRRELL
Name: Ken Tyrrell
Nationality: Great Britain
After serving with the Royal Air Force in World War II, Ken Tyrrell decided to go into the timber business, figuring that a lot of wood would be needed to rebuild bomb-damaged Britain. He made a fortune and in 1951 began racing in the 500cc Formula 3 series with Cooper chassis. In the late 1950s he began preparing cars for other racers, running a Formula 2 Cooper for Henry Taylor. His relationship with Cooper grew and in 1960 the Tyrrell Racing Organisation was established to run the factory Cooper-BMC team in Formula Junior. In 1961 the business expanded to include a touring car team to run Cooper-modified versions of the British Motor Corporation's Mini.
With the introduction of new Formula 3 regulations in 1964 Tyrrell hired a young Scottish driver called Jackie Stewart to partner Warwick Banks. Stewart won the British title. That same year Banks won the inaugural European Touring Car Championship in a Mini Cooper S. In 1965 Tyrrell entered Formula 2 with a two car team of Cooper-BRMs for Stewart and Jacky Ickx and later that year he took over the running of the Cooper F1 team as well when John Cooper was seriously injured in a road accident. Cooper was later sold to the Chipstead Motor Group and Tyrrell decided to switch to Matra-BRMs in Formula 2 in 1966 for Stewart and Ickx. After the Cosworth DFV engine became available in 1967 Tyrrell decided to enter Formula 1 and used DFV engines and Matra chassis, running as Matra International, which was separate from the works Matra Sports. With Stewart as driver, the team won in Holland and Germany and expanded to run two cars with Frenchman Johnny Servoz-Gavin driving the second. Stewart won again at the United States GP and finished second in the World Championship.
In 1969 Stewart, who was joined by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Beltoise, won in South Africa, Spain, Holland, France, Britain and Italy to sweep to the World Championship. Matra won the Constructors' title but for 1970 tried to insist that the Tyrrell team use Matra V12 engines as well as the chassis. Tyrrell refused and bought March chassis instead, while secretly hiring designer Derek Gardner to design a Formula 1 Tyrrell chassis. Stewart won one race in the March but then struggled and in the late summer the Tyrrell-DFV 001 appeared. Stewart won the non-championship Oulton Gold Cup race but it was not raced in the World Championship until the Canadian GP which Stewart led until suffering an axle failure.
The car was refined over the winter and in 1971 took Stewart to victories in Spain, Monaco, France, Britain, Germany and Canada. His Tyrrell team mate Francois Cevert won the United States GP. Stewart was World Champion for a second time and Tyrrell won the Constructors' title with ease. Team Lotus responded in 1972 with the new Lotus 72 and Emerson Fittipaldi won the title but Stewart beat him in 1973 with wins in South Africa, Belgium, Monaco, Holland and Germany. In qualifying for the United States GP Cevert was killed and the team withdrew, giving up its chance of winning the Constructors' title. Stewart retired from F1 a few weeks later. Tyrrell hired Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler and there were some successes, notably in 1976 with the Tyrrell six-wheeler P34, but then Scheckter moved to Wolf and the team hired Ronnie Peterson for the 1977 season and then Didier Pironi for 1978.
When Renault and Ligier became frontrunning teams in 1979 the French oil company Elf decided to concentrate its efforts on them and withdrew Tyrrell's sponsorship. The team struggled to find money and had to resort to hiring unknown young drivers. This was quite successful and the team launched the careers of Michele Alboreto, Stefan Bellof, Martin Brundle and Jean Alesi. The team remained competitive enough to win the Las Vegas GP in 1982 and Detroit in 1983 (both with Alboreto driving) but Tyrrell's opposition to turbocharging meant that the team never caught up with the investment made by rival teams when the big manufacturers became involved. The team tended to lose the young drivers when their contracts ended and a number of big sponsors also came and went elsewhere, notably Candy, Benetton and Courtaulds.
The team seemed to remain rather amateur in its approach to an increasingly professional sport. In 1989 Tyrrell celebrated his 65th birthday by driving one of the team's trucks to Monaco because there were not enough staff available.
The team was boosted by the arrival in 1987 of Harvey Postlethwaite. After the success of the Tyrrell 019 in 1990 Harvey moved away again but he returned at the end of 1993 when the Tyrrells offered him a 10% shareholding in the team. As Postlethwaite took an increasingly important role in the team he became, in many respects, the team boss. In 1997, having failed to raise the money to continue, Ken and his sons agreed to sell the team to British American Tobacco for $30m. Ken and Bob Tyrrell were due to stay on for the 1998 season but they departed after a dispute with the new owners in February 1998. The team became British American Racing (BAR).
Tyrrell was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas in 1999 but at the end of that year was made president of the British Racing Drivers' Club. Tyrrell died in August 2001.