Tau­ranac birth­day bash

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

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.

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