Features - Interview

MARCH 1, 1992

Ken Tyrrell


Ken Tyrrell is a pensioner but he is still hard at work in F1 circles. The team recently announced another first for the Ockham organisation - its first exclusive factory engine deal. The deal is with Yamaha Motor.

Ken Tyrrell is a pensioner but he is still hard at work in F1 circles. The team recently announced another first for the Ockham organisation - its first exclusive factory engine deal. The deal is with Yamaha Motor.

"The engine is basically a Judd V10," says Tyrrell, "but it'll be extensively modified. They will be built in Rugby at Engine Developments. Yamaha is going to have personnel at Rugby but they are also developing an engine independent of Engine Developments in Japan, so there are two separate programmes going on.

"I think we've seen this year that times are quite hard for V12 engines. The very best V12 is the Honda and that is having a hard time this year, even though it is not perhaps in the very best chassis. Next year the change of regulations means that there is less rubber to put down on the road and you really do not need the length, the extra weight and the extra fuel consumption of a 12-cylinder engine.

"In our opinion the engine to have next year is a 10-cylinder. It has been the engine this year, but it will be even more so next year."

With the first race of next year at the end of February, will Ken and his team have a new car at the start of 1993?

"It is not many weeks away now, so we are going to do the first three races next year with our existing car, but from the engine backwards it will be a 1993 car. It'll have a new engine, gearbox and rear suspension. After the first three races that new rear end will go on to the new monocoque and a new front suspension. That is being designed by Mike Coughlan. The reason he is not here this weekend is because he is getting down to work on the new car.

"The semi-active front suspension that we have works, especially over a bumpy circuit. Next year we will be semi-active front and rear.

"We will also have a semi-automatic gearbox. We will not have it at the start of the season but the new gearbox is designed to be semi-automatic. We already have traction control. We"ve had it for the last four or five races."

And what about drivers?

"We want to keep Andrea (de Cesaris). He has done a really great job for us. We are negotiating with him at the moment."

Ken has been around long enough to know all the ups and downs of Grand Prix racing, does he think the sport is in trouble at the moment?

"I would prefer to see motor racing as it was going back 15- 20 years," he explains. "Every team could go to Northampton. You'd give Cosworth money and they'd give you an engine capable of winning the next Grand Prix. It's been a long time since one has been able to do that! Eighty percent of teams had the same engine and they all had around the same horsepower - within 4-5. We had very close racing.

"It's impossible to go back to that because we've got so many manufacturers involved now producing engines."

Ken agrees that F1 is at a crossroads where it must decide on the future: set he correct balance between technological advance, entertainment and cost.

"There is a financial crisis in all sots of sport which require sponsorship," he says. "Formula 1 has got to be dreadfully expensive and it's very difficult to find sponsors. You have only to look at our car and see the number of spaces that are on it to know that we have a lot of space we could sell but can't.

"As to which areas we could look to, the trouble is that anything that you want to do affects the performance of other teams who have already had technical improvements. The classic example is active suspension. It probably does nothing for the normal motor race of the future, so do we really need it? The people out there watching the motor race, they don't care whether the car has active suspension or not, they want to have a good motor race, they don't really want to see Nigel clearing off into the distance every time.

"What do people out there want to see?" asks Ken. "What do the people who watch on TV want to see? I think they want to see competitive racing. I think they want to see a lot of overtaking. If you look at the grid in Adelaide the gap from first to last is five seconds. I'd like to see it at three seconds.

"There has to be a compromise between technological development and competitiveness. The most important people for me are those who put their bums on seats out there, the people in over 60 countries watching us on television. We don't want to become a formula like F3000 or Indycar racing, I think F1 is a standard up on that."