Off the line

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The perfect pitch

Sounds I enjoyed as the kid of an indulgent father in the 1970s: David Bowie, Thin Lizzy, The Clash, XTC (Swindon’s finest!)… and, of course, the Cosworth DFV.

 

I never met Keith Duckworth, but I feel that with his passing in December a major part of my formative years has been lost. I fell in love with this sport as a small boy and was thrilled when, aged seven, I jumped into my dad’s Ford Capri and he steered it towards Brands Hatch for my first British Grand Prix.

Jody Scheckter won that day in his DFV-engined Tyrrell after longtime leader Niki Lauda picked up a puncture on his Ferrari. But what strikes me most looking back on that weekend is that, of the 34 cars which attempted to qualify for the race, 29 were powered by the DFV.

Even more amazing is to think that by this stage the engine was seven years on from its debut, in the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix, and that the DFV and its derivatives would go on winning in Formula One until Michele Alboreto signed off for the powerplant with his victory in Detroit in ’83 — 16 years later! For many of us the DFV was the soundtrack to what was almost a generation. Turn up for the first practice session at a grand prix, and you’d hear the engines crackling at

low revs as the drivers felt their way into circuit and conditions. Soon they’d be up to speed and the crackle would become a rasp.

And there were loads of them too, for the DFV was the single most important factor in the rise of the garagiste era of the 1970s. Just plug in the engine and a Hewland gearbox and, if you couldn’t be bothered to build your own car, buy a March. It was a beautiful, colourful era for the sport’s pinnacle.

I was reminded of this at Brands Hatch last September when, standing with a mate, I watched the first Al Grand Prix race from the approach to Stirling’s. Why we were so enjoying the exhaust notes of the cars as they hit the brakes? Soon we realised: it reminded us of the DFV. Later came the TGP boys. Heaven!

It’s not just Formula One either, but sportscar racing and Formula 3000 (both with derivatives of the DFV), Formula 5000 and touring cars (the 3.4-litre GA), Indycars… The list goes on and on. The Cosworth dynasty that Keith Duckworth founded with Mike Costin has played a pivotal role in this sport. And what a cool name! Makes you glad they settled on that composite of their two names. After all, you can’t imagine the Ducktin DFV winning grand prix races for 16 years, can you?

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