Tauranac birthday bash
Last month Ron Tauranac turned 90 years of age. The quiet, unassuming engineering brains behind the two world championship successes for the Brabham team in the 1960s has never been one for pomp and ceremony, but the occasion of his 90th birthday was celebrated in a style befitting his status as a Formula One engineering legend.
A lunch was held in Ron’s honour at Parramatta Park, literally alongside the road that was once the Parramatta Park circuit on which Tauranac himself raced one of his early Ralt creations just over 60 years ago.
A 1950s Ralt open-wheeler was on hand to mark the occasion, taking pride of place out the front of the venue alongside a ‘60s Brabham and an early ‘80s Ralt RT4 – the three cars presenting a visual reminder of Tauranac’s long and prolific career as a designer of racing cars which began in the immediate post-war period and continued right through the 1980s ground effects era and even beyond that.
Of course, Tauranac’s greatest achievements were those he shared with Jack Brabham in the 1960s. The Tauranac-designed Brabham BT19 and BT20 took out the F1 Constructors Championship in 1966 and 1967 respectively, Brabham’s ’66 drivers’ title triumph making him the only man ever to win the world championship in a car bearing his own name.
The Tauranac/Brabham combo’s successes were not confined to F1. Tauranac’s cars also dominated the junior formulae; Ron’s trademark of building racing cars that were not only strong, straightforward designs but also as fast as anything else was something other customer racing car makers found hard to match.
After the Brabham-Tauranac era was over (Tauranac sold the F1 team to Bernie Ecclestone), Ron returned to making customer racing cars, reprising the Ralt name from the ‘50s and proceeding to dominate the Formula 2/3/Atlantic ranks across the globe for at least the next 10 years.
Tauranac’s record of success as a racing car designer on the international stage, through three decades, is astonishing and probably unparalleled. But what’s even more surprising is the fact that Tauranac is so little known in Australia. For a country that never seems to miss an opportunity to tout its international achievements, Australia mystifyingly remains largely ignorant of Ron Tauranac.
Not so the rest of the world – at the Parramatta Park function, birthday messages were read out from a host of F1 luminaries, including drivers Dan Gurney and Tony Brooks, Bernie Ecclestone, Ron Dennis, Eddie Jordan, former Brabham/ McLaren designer Gordon Murray, engine man John Judd, and Nobuhiko Kawamoto, the former Honda CEO and engineer with whom Ralt won consecutive F2 titles between 1982 and 1984.
Above: Tauranac the team owner, in discussion with Graham Hill and Tim Schenken at Silverstone in 1971. Left: Sam Michael and Greg Siddle were among the guests at Tauranac’s 90th. The guest of honour (far left) holding court.