Adrian Reynard is unusual among production racing car constructors in that he snakes no secret of the fact that one day he hopes there will be an F1 car bearing his name. Even more unusual is that nobody close to the sport seriously doubts that he will achieve that ambition.
Two days after this article is published Reynard will know whether he has made a significant move towards his goal as five of his new F3 cars are scheduled to start in the first round of the 1985 British F3 Championship. It says a lot for the man’s reputation as a designer that there will be five examples of an unproven design, each driven by a potential winner, on the grid at all When the Ralt RT3 first appeared in 1979, there was only one taker, Elisio Salazar, and it was not until Stefan Johansson switched from March to Ralt halfway through the following season and then strung together a series of wins which secured him the Championship at the last round, did people take the design seriously.
The Reynard 853 could, if successful, signal a revolution in racing car design for it is the first racing car to be constructed from moulded composites, the first junior formulae racing car to have a composite monococque, and it also features clever “integrated design” corners. The uprights, brake discs, flanges, drive shaft housings and spindles are packaged as a single component and are interchangeable not only between all four corners on the F3 car, but with different specification brake discs and callipers, between all four corners on the company’s latest FF1600 and F2000 cars. The push rod suspension is interchangeable from side to side as well
This means that the company which produces them, Sabre Automotive Ltd., can Produce them more quickly, easily and profitably while the customer benefits in terms of the number of spares he has to carry for emergencies and, hence, his capital outlay. Sabre Automotive is an in-house company which also undertakes some outside sub-contract work but whose main business is to produce all the components for Reynard Racing Cars, its chief customer, which is the branch of the firm which assembles, sells and develops the cars.
As well as being a first rate designer, Adrian Reynard is also a shrewd businessman and has fully grasped the dictum: “If a racing car manufacturer is not making money, then very soon he is not making racing cars.” Like every other product, a racing car most make a profit not only to pay the wage bill, and Reynard employs three dozen people, but also to finance future development and design so that the company remains competitive on all fronts.
Part of the reason for the F3 car’s late appearance before the start of the new season is that Paul Owens, who draws upon experience with composite monococques from his days as team manager with Maurer and by running the ATS D7, the design of which he inherited, has insisted on productionising the composite moulding process which is central to the 853. This has delayed the car by a couple of months but should pay dividends when full-scale production begins in the summer.
The monococque is made up of resin-impregnated sheets of carbon fibre, kevlar and E-glass which are carefully cut to pattern and laid in moulds. Aluminium honeycomb is laid between the inner and outer skins and the raw monocoque is then baked in an oven for eight hours, the total time for constructing a tub from scratch being 80 hours.
Fresh from the oven, the tub weighs 40 lb and a further 15 lb are added when component-carrying metal inserts are put into place. Parallel to the back of the tub, and bolted to an insert within, in the manner of a Brabham BT53, is a metal endplate which carries the engine sub-frame. It is no coincidence that this endplate will also accept a Cosworth DFV and, until it became clear that production schedules would not permit it, Reynard was talking to several interested parties with a view to providing tubs for F3000 this year. That idea has been postponed until 1986. When production begins in mid-summer, and Reynard believes he could produce a car a week, there will obviously be applications for F Atlantic and F SuperVee or, even, CART.
Sectional stiffness of the tub is claimed to be twice that of any current F3 car and as for torsional rigidity, Reynard will only say, “Like the men at Rolls-Royce when asked about power output, I will only say that it is ‘adequate’.”
The bodywork, which under 1985 F3 regulations must be flat bottomed and yet have deformable side structures, is made mainly of glassfibre with kevlar where extra strength is needed, and with aluminium honeycomb bonded in. Downforce comes mainly from the front and rear wings but the undertray curves up at the back to form an underwing which, it is claimed, generates a measure of ground effect.
Most cars will be fitted with the VW engine but four are being made for Madgwick Motorsport tube fitted with John Nicholson-developed works Saab engines. Madgwick will run one car in France, two in Britain and the fourth is the team spare. The Saab engine features the company’s new ignition system which does away with plug leads and provides what is, in effect, a separate coil on top of each sparking plug. A sophisticated, contactless, electronic engine management system provides optimum fuel / air mixture and ignition setting at every stage of the rev band.
Externally, the Saab engined cars are easily distinguished by the apparent lack of an air restrictor. The air intake is in the righthand side pod, which Reynard has shaped to provide a high pressure area just before the orifice. Air passes through the restrictor, over a hot wire which monitors air flow for the management system, and then into a plenum (expansion) chamber. This allows a certain amount of stability for the air before it is drawn upwards through a cast manifold and into the engine. A similar system was used by Connaught in 1953.
Reynard reckons that the removal of the air box from the external air stream of the car is worth 3 bhp in reduced drag. If stories I have heard about the engine’s performance on the test bed prove to be true, then the Saab engine will produce 10 bhp more than any existing engine in F3 and, more to the point, will have much more torque over at least twice the usual rev band of an F3 engine which, because of the 24 mm air restrictor, typically delivers its power only over a 1,000 rpm range.
It’s all very exciting and the opening rounds of the F3 Championship will be followed with an unusually high degree of interest for the new flat bottom regulations means that everyone starts again from scratch, team managers can no longer refer to notes they made last year and the year before, and there are brand new designs from Rub, Magnum, Rum (ex-Cygnus) and Anson, as well as drivers who will start the season with last year’s cars fitted with “update” body kits, waiting to see how the new cars perform before choosing.
Adrian Reynard was been in 1951 and was soon introduced to racing by his father who worked for BP and, among other jobs within that company, once looked after the fuel needs of contracted drivers at meetings. While still at primary school, he was the owner of a Get-Kart which he used to race against local opposition, mainly on grass. He soon became adept at tuning his kart’s 100 cc Aspera engine. As a junior karter he was successful both in Britain and in Connecticut where his father’s job took the family for a spell.
Determined to go into racing, he studied hard to get the right sort of “0” and “A” levels and when he was 15, he began working, unpaid, at weekends in the workshop of that great motorcycle sprint exponent, George Brown, in order to gain practical experience. When Reynard was 18, Brown sold him one of his frames for E100 and he fitted in it one of the rare single cylinder, 247 cc, two stroke Royal Enfield GP5 engines. Adrian was soon a familiar, and successful, figure on the motorcycle sprint scene. At the end of 1970, Reynard took five world records with this machine at Elvington and, the following year, with a frame of his own making, broke four of them. That machine is now attached to the wall of the reception area of the Reynard Centre in Bicester.
On leaving school, Adrian Reynard enrolled for a four year HND course at Oxford Polytechnic and found time to race, and win with, a single-seater Ginetta in Formula Libra races. In 1973 he designed and built an FF1600 car as part of his Polytechnic course and, taking it to Silverstone, won first time out.
Continuing with the car the following year, he was involved in Rupert Keegan’s aerobatics at Brands Hatch whereafter the first Reynard was used to good effect by Jeremy Rossiter, who was better funded. In the meantime, he had founded Sabre Automotive and had taken a job with BL at Longbridge where he soon graduated into design engineering. He left at the end of 1974 and, since Sabre Automotive was not yet in a position to afford him full time, went for a year to study at the Cranfield Institute of Advanced Technology.
F2000 was just beginning and Reynard designed a car for the formula and sank most of his spare cash remaining into taking a stand at the 1975 Racing Car show which resulted in two’ customer sales. A further two cars were built up for the use of Jeremy Rossiter and himself and they had a fairly successful season, at one time or another holding every circuit record for the category.
An approach was made by Mike Keegan early in 1975 and the upshot was that Reynard designed and built the Hawke F3 car and carried out a lot of work on a study for an F1 design, both cars destined 1, Rupert Keegan, of course. Testing revealed that, though competitive, the Hawke waste better than any other F3 design so Rupert Keegan decided to stick to a Chevron to win the 1976 F3 Championship and the car was sold to Jan Lammers. An offer to drive the Hesketh 803E in 1977 was accepted by Keegan and so the Hawke F1 design was still-born.
Meanwhile, Sabre Automotive was growing in strength as a subcontracting firm with seven employers undertaking a range of work which included making a handful of Reynard F2000 cars each year. These cars seemed to improve with age and production rose steadily, four cars in 1975, eight in ’76, 15 in ’77 (when Reynards won more F2000 races than any other marque), 20 in ’78. Small numbers of FF1600 cars began to appear as well.
In 1979, David Leslie completely dominated both British F2000 Championships in his Reynard and, as a bonus, Adrian himself won the European series. Then, the following year, came a wrong move with the introduction of a ground effects car which was not very successful though it must be said that Reynard was not alone in making the mistake. The power available from F2000 engines was insufficient to compensate for the increased drag of a ground effects design and, besides, the whole area was still very much a black art which was not fully understood. Though fitted with ground effects sidepods, the 1980 car was essentially the same as its immediate forebears. In fact, in the Ford formulae, Reynard has produced just three basic concepts, the one which lasted until the end of 1980, the first slim-line car which appeared at the end of 1981 and the current design which appeared at the end of last year.
The period 1973-80 had been, for Reynard, the sort of career which is fairly typical for a bright young constructor. With the exception of the ground effects car, it had been a time of consolidated success with, in Sabre Automotive, a reasonably secure financial base. His talent had been recognised by John MacDonald, Reynard’s near neighbour in Bicester, and Adrian had our some work with MacDonald, helping engineer the two Williams FW07s which he was then running.
1981 saw the formation of March Grand Prix International, run by MacDonald and using March 811s designed by Robin Herd. This car followed the the general principles of the FW07 but was a disaster. The monocoque flexed and on one occasion, a suspension mounting pulled out of it. Gordon Coppuck, who was then a freelance designer with a contract with March took control but Reynard was drafted onto the team’s strength after Daly had failed to prequalify for Monaco, his sixth DNQ in a row. From the time Reynard joined, Daly made every race except the last one at Caesar’s Palace. True he generally started in the last six on the grid but, at Silverstone, brought the car home seventh after a pit stop to rectify a loose gear linkage which cost him a lap and, perhaps, second place.
While concentrating on his F1 commitments, Reynard managed to design and build the Reynard SF 81 (Super Ford 1981) which appeared late in the season at Thruxton driven by Simon Kirkby. The new car, with its all-round inboard suspension and with its radiators recessed in the bodywork aimed to have the lowest possible drag, though on its debut it was wrongly geared and could not show its potential.
Both the SF 82 and FF 82 showed promise but Van Diemen were dominant in both categories in 1982. Reynard’s F1 work was anyway taking up most of his time and his own cars were not so finely honed as a result. Over the winter, he managed to shed 50 kgs from the March to create the lighter, stiffer, more nimble 821 which Mass and Boesel generally had no difficulty in qualifying near the tail of the grid where you’d expect them robe in most cars.
At Monaco, over Reynard’s head, MacDonald who had landed a big sponsor in Rothmans and was over-anxious for some results, switched from the radial Pirellis he’d been using, to crossply Avons. The relationship between the two men was never the same again and, late in the season, Reynard applied for a job at Lotus.
“As I drove to Hethel, I was 110% certain I wanted the job but I was told that I would have to sever links with my own company. I then realised what that meant to me and decided that I would return to F1 but it would be with my own car.”
With his personal priorities settled, Reynard threw himself into his neglected company once again. One of the first things he did, and he will say one of the best, was to recruit his old friend, Rick Gorne, to act as a general manager and look after customers and sales. Rick had been a reasonably quick F2000 driver (with a Reynard, of course) who had left the cockpit to act as the BARC’s Competitions Director.
The chemistry between the two men, each knocking ideas off the other, revitalised the business. Visiting the factory in mid-1983 with the order books full and plans for the new F3 already in hand, one could sense almost tangible excitement. That year, the Reynard became the car to beat in the Ford formulae, at home and overseas as well.
The success continued last year, too, with Reynard cars winning no fewer than 31 championships all over the world. Including 30 FF83 kits which were supplied to Rondeau in order to establish FF 1600 in France, Reynard produced a staggering 151 cars.
In two years, the workforce had nearly trebled and, for first time, Reynard had to subcontract work out to meet the demand. In addition, the company launched and sponsored a low cost series for pre-1980 F2000 cars — which was won by a Lola.
The business is clearly run in a tight, professional, way. 30% of turnover comes from the sale of cars, 10% from subcontract work, sometimes for rival firms, and 60% from spares. “On average,” says Rick Come, “a single-seater racing carts involved in an accident once every nine races.”
Reynard is very conscious of cost, not only in the way that any businessman should be, in terms of overheads and profitability, but also in the costs which his customers have to meet for, if the Ford formulae continue to generate escalating costs as they have done so over the past four or five years, then his position as a volume supplier of new cars is threatened. Part of his philosophy can be seen in the sponsorship of the pre-1980 F2000 series which encourages low cost racing, though one would not be in the least bit surprised if one learned that profit generated from the sale of spares to owners of previously obsolete cars did not off-set or out-weigh his financial stake in the series. Another example can be seen in his refusal, last year, to offer ground effects sidepods as an extra to his customers even though wind tunnel testing had shown they could offer a small advantage. While his cars were winning without them, there was no point in complicating the issue and adding to expense by introducing them especially since they would have been obsolete by the start of this year with a new “flat bottom” rule coming into force.
The sidepods themselves could be made quite cheaply but the expensive part would be the additional testing a team would need to dial them into a car and give the driver enough experience of them to be able to use them effectively. Similar to most engine builders in a dominant position, Reynard likes to have a few cards up his sleeve just in case the opposition gets too close.
The new “concept 3” Ford formulae cars are narrower and stiffer than their immediate forebears and feature, as standard, cockpit adjustment of the front and rear roll bars, something which was an extra on last year’s cars. They also have the interchangeable corner units previously described. Reynard regards the roll bar adjustments as an unnecessary sophistication, forced by the fact that he needs to keep ahead of the opposition, and would really like the Ford formulae to get back to basics.
Reynard’s management strength has recently been increased by the arrival of James Weaver who acts as a technical liaison officer between the design team (Adrian now has three assistants) and customers. “There are over three hundred Reynards out there,” says Adrian, “and if each owner has just two problems to answer each year, then that’s over 600 enquiries which have to be dealt with.” In new of the importance of the American market, a new branch, Reynard Inc, has been established there to sell directly to customers and to provide after-sales service.
An interview with Adrian Reynard published in Motor Sport (February 1979) was sub-titled “An embryonic Chapman, or mini-Broadley?” which, given the time, was perceptive of its author, Jeremy Walton. Reynard is showing all the signs of deserving the comparison. When it became clear that the cost to research and develop the technology for the new F3 car would be around £150,000, he approached the Dept of Industry, pointing out that the new technology he was proposing to develop could have applications outside of motor racing. He must have been convincing too, for he received a “no strings” government gram which covered most of the cost. We may expect a new division of Sabre Automotive to market the technology. No even Chapman got money from the government to build a racing car.
As a taxpayer, I shall be watching the progress of the new car with more than usual interest! — M. L.