As part of this month’s world exclusive Adrian Newey special, Gordon Kirby traces his roots in America.
This early stage of Newey’s career is relatively overlooked in light of his stratospheric achievements in Formula 1. But IndyCar great Bobby Rahal – still a good friend of the Red Bull designer – remembers him differently. “Give me Adrian Newey,” he said, “and we don’t need the best driver to win.”
March sent Newey to work stateside in 1983, only a year out of Southampton University. He worked on the company’s IMSA GTP car that year before moving into IndyCar with Rahal.
Newey admits to being “wet behind the ears” at that point, with no experience of oval tracks, but he learned and adapted quickly. Rahal was a genuine contender over the next few years and he maintains that Newey was growing as well: “I’d like to think that by working with us in those formative years,” he says, “Adrian took heed and gained an understanding about how things work in the real world, and that over time that knowledge enabled him to design better and better cars.”
Newey went on to work with Mario and Michael Andretti before returning to the UK and making his mark with the Leyton House Marches, one of which graces our cover this month, Adrian himself behind the wheel.
Newey’s years in America were incredibly important in learning to work with drivers as well as his trusty drawing board. “I learned a lot through those years. Mario was another driver I had that special working relationship with, and Michael to a lesser extent. I would say the strongest relationship was with Bobby and then Mario, but Michael and I started to get a good understanding. It’s ironic that of the five drivers that I would say I achieved that with, three were drivers I engineered in Indycars.”
The other two remain nameless for now, but even without that slice of intrigue, ‘the F1 Whisperer’ (as Martin Brundle calls him) was once renowned on the ovals of America and his early history is essential to understanding how he has achieved such success in Europe.