MARCH 5, 2008
Formula 1 legend sells out
John Barnard dropped out of a high-profile Formula 1 position 10 years ago when he fell out with Tom Walkinshaw's Arrows operation. He later did work for a number of teams but remained a consultant and was happy to be out of the limelight. His Formula 1 career had been a great success, beginning in 1972 when he worked with Gordon Coppuck on various McLaren designs, including the super-successful Formula 1 M23. In the middle of 1975 Barnard was hired by Parnelli to design an F1 car but as the team withdrew from Grand Prix racing soon afterwards, Barnard designed an Indycar instead and from there moved on to Chaparral where his 2K Indycar revolutionised US racing. The success drew Barnard to the attention of Ron Dennis of the Project 4 team. Dennis wanted to be in Formula 1 and agreed to underwrite the design and construction of a revolutionary Grand Prix car which would be made entirely of composite material.
Project 4 took over McLaren soon afterwards and the car became the McLaren MP4/1, on which was based the entire family of successful F1 McLarens in the mid-1980s. Unable to compete, Ferrari reached for the chequebook and in 1987 lured Barnard away, agreeing to fund the establishment of a Ferrari design office in Britain. It was from there that Barnard masterminded his next technical breakthrough, the semi-automatic gearbox. Soon afterward the Ferrari 639 appeared Barnard received an offer to join Benetton and set up another research centre in Surrey. He designed the B191, which formed the basis for last year's World Championship-winning B194. The relatiionship did not last and Barnard then dropped out of F1 for a time and worked on a secret Toyota F1 design for the TOMS company. The Japanese firm failed to take the bait and when Ferrari once again offered Barnard his own design centre in Surrey, he went back to working for the Italians in Shalford. Predictably, the communication between England and Italy was little better than it had been the first time around and Barnard bought the Shalford facility and established his own company B3 Technologies. Now 61, Barnard has just announced that he is selling his shares in the business to a consortium headed by B3™s commercial director, John Minett. The company has recruited former F1 engineers Steve Nichols and Matthew Jeffreys to be directors of the revamped operation.
B3 will continue to create components for motor racing, aerospace, defence, medical instrumentation and specialist engineering companies.