March F1 team co-founder Robin Herd dies aged 80

Robin Herd, best known as one of the founders of March Engineering, has died at the age of 80.

March F1 team co-founder Robin Herd dies aged 80

Born in 1939, Herd graduated from Oxford University with a double first in engineering and physics. He joined the Royal Aircraft Establishment, where he worked on the Concorde project. However, he had developed an interest in motor racing, and when in 1965 he was offered a job by Bruce McLaren he immediately agreed to join the Kiwi's new outfit.

Herd's first job was to design the M2A, which featured a novel mallite construction that he borrowed from the aircraft industry. The car made its debut as the M2B in Monaco in May 1966, but was let down by a heavy and gutless Ford engine, which had its roots at the Indy 500. The team experimented with an Italian Serenissima unit before switching back to the Ford.

McLaren opted for BRM power for 1967, but when the season stared the promised V12 wasn't available. Instead the team had to run a smaller 2.1-litre V8 in Herd's converted M4B chassis, until that was written off. When the V12 finally arrived it was run in the M5A at the end of the 1967 season.

Herd designed the chassis of the M7A for 1968 but then left the team to work for Cosworth. In the hands of his erstwhile assistant Gordon Coppuck, the M7A was developed into a race winner, scoring three grand prix victories that year.

Denny Hulme, McLaren M7A Ford

Denny Hulme, McLaren M7A Ford

Photo by: LAT Images

Herd had been hired to create an advanced-looking 4WD F1 prototype for Cosworth, which was tested but ultimately never raced. Then in early 1969 he briefly worked for Frank Williams as engineer on Piers Courage's F1 Brabham.

Herd came close to joining forces with Bernie Ecclestone and Jochen Rindt to form an F1 team., but instead that year he hooked up with fellow Oxford graduate and gentleman racer Max Mosley, schoolfriend Alan Rees and Graham Coaker to form March Engineering. Their first car was the F3 693, given its debut by Ronnie Peterson at the end of 1969.

Despite this low-key start Herd and his colleagues had huge ambitions, and when they announced that they were creating an F1 car for 1970 there was some scepticism.

However, come the season opener at Kyalami there were five March 701s on the grid – three works entries for Mario Andretti, Chris Amon and Jo Siffert, and two for Jackie Stewart and Johnny Servoz-Gavin from Ken Tyrrell, who had split with Matra. Incredibly, Stewart took pole for that race and at the second round in Spain scored the marque's first victory.

Meanwhile, March had expanded rapidly in F2 and F3, and even built CanAm and Formula Ford cars.

Lella Lombardi, Vittorio Brambilla, Robin Herd, March Designer with the March 761

Lella Lombardi, Vittorio Brambilla, Robin Herd, March Designer with the March 761

Photo by: LAT Images

March continued to run a sporadically successful works F1 team, while supplying customer cars to privateers, notably Frank Williams. Peterson finished runner-up in the 1971 world championship, despite not winning a race, while that same year Niki Lauda made his debut under Herd's wing. In 1973 James Hunt made his first GP start in a Hesketh-run March.

It wasn't until 1975 that the works outfit finally won a Grand Prix, Vittorio Brambilla triumphing in a rain-shortened race in Austria, with only half points awarded. The following year Peterson returned, and soon became a regular frontrunner, scoring an undisputed victory at Monza.

By 1977 March had run out of momentum in F1, and the works outfit was sold to ATS. However, its customer business continued to thrive. From 1981 the company made big steps in Indycar racing, taking on longtime rival Lola, and supplying the likes of Roger Penske. March chassis would win the Indy 500 each year from 1983 to 1987 in the hands of Tom Sneva, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, Bobby Rahal and Al Unser Sr. Adrian Newey was one of many young engineers who gained valuable experience under Herd's guidance.

In 1981 the March name returned to F1 in partnership with John McDonald's RAM team, but with little in the way of success. In 1987 Herd formed a partnership with Leyton House.

Eventually March hit financial problems, and after Herd sold his interest he set up his own consultancy business. His last active involvement in the sport was with an IRL team in the late nineties. Instead he focussed with considerable success on other business interests, and for a while he was chairman of Oxford United FC.

Mike Costin, Cosworth 4 wheel drive F1, designer Robin Herd

Mike Costin, Cosworth 4 wheel drive F1, designer Robin Herd

Photo by: David Phipps

 

shares
comments
Upgraded engine won't match Ferrari's top speed - Bottas

Previous article

Upgraded engine won't match Ferrari's top speed - Bottas

Next article

Vettel says 2019 retirement claims "made up"

Vettel says 2019 retirement claims "made up"
Load comments
The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team Prime

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team

Emerson Fittipaldi is better remembered for his Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis 500 successes than for the spell running his eponymous F1 team. Despite a hugely talented roll call of staff, it was a period of internal strife, limited funding and few results - as remembered by Tim Wright.

Formula 1
Oct 18, 2021
Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence Prime

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence

In the 1960s and 1970s, McLaren juggled works entries in F1, sportscars and the Indy 500 while building cars for F3 and F2. Now it’s returning to its roots, expanding into IndyCars and Extreme E while continuing its F1 renaissance. There’s talk of Formula E and WEC entries too. But is this all too much, too soon? Stuart Codling talks to the man in charge.

Formula 1
Oct 17, 2021
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Prime

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

Formula 1
Oct 15, 2021
The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Prime

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers Prime

How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory Prime

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form Prime

How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form

A Formula 1 pitstop is a rapid-fire blend of high technology and human performance. PAT SYMONDS describes how the science of margin gains makes stops so quick

Formula 1
Oct 10, 2021