Former racing car king Adrian Reynard is selling his own collection of single-seaters. Each represents a chapter of his own life – and of those who worked with him
writer Damien Smith
Adrian Reynard knows he’s going to regret this. The cars you see here represent a life’s work, but he’s finally made the call. They are all for sale. The trio of Formula 3 cars, the Formula 3000 pair and the Indycar carry his name, the two Formula 1s significantly more. They represent the broken dreams of a long-gestated plan to conquer the pinnacle of his sport, but also the genesis of something beyond him – something that would inadvertently achieve his desires in two guises he could never have imagined.
Here are eight single-seaters spanning 18 cut-and-thrust years, in which his eponymous company rose to the heady heights of the planet’s most prolific builder of racing cars – and then became extinct almost overnight when the pinch of a plunging economy and a changing market wrought disaster. What a ride, and what a painful fall. For Reynard, these cars are personal. They always were.
So how come he’s selling them?
“This collection has grown since 1985 and they’ve been stored in multiple locations,” he says. Still today they are dotted around, never having lived under one roof as a single display. “Originally I thought they would be a nice legacy for my kids. But I’ve got five children and none of them is remotely interested! They probably know at some stage they might get the benefit of something out of them. I’m approaching 65 and it’s probably a good time to sort them out, rather than leave it to them when I’m not here any more. It’s a pragmatic decision.
“Of course I’ll regret it,” he says, as he prepares to tell their stories – and his in parallel. “They all mean a lot to me.”
The Adrian Reynard Collection is for sale. Contact Alan Cornock at FCS for more information on +44 (0)1480 891212, +44 (0)7860 954238
The roots of Reynard Motorsport burrow back to 1973, when March’s first employee Bill Stone convinced 21-year-old student Reynard to join him in a breakaway. They formed Sabre and Adrian set to work on his first self-built racer, the Reynard 73F Formula Ford. He only built one and he still has it, the keystone of his collection – and it’s the only car that’s not for sale.
The 73F began the famous tradition of Reynard winning its first race in a new formula. But a rocky road lay ahead and it wasn’t until the early 1980s that the constructor could be described as truly established. By 1985 Adrian was ready for the next step.
“It was quite a big jump for us going from Formula Ford to Formula 3,” he says. “We did a carbon-fibre chassis, which was a bit more expensive. It had some credibility issues back then, I guess, in terms of safety, damage and cost, but we managed to make a chassis for the price of an aluminium monocoque – so competitive with Ralt.”
Oxford’s Andy Wallace duly won Reynard’s maiden F3 race, then claimed the British title in 1986. “We had lots of opposition. Mick Cook was the engineer, I was there for most of the races and it was fun and exhilarating,” Reynard recalls. “We learned a lot about set-up. It was a ridiculous time when there was no minimum ride height [stipulated], so we found that widening the springs on the front with tremendous pre-load allowed us to run at 10 or 11 millimetres off the deck. How Andy drove it… I mean it was virtually a solid front end. But it did give him immeasurable grip.”
In partnership with sales manager and former on-track rival Rick Gorne, Reynard now really started motoring. “We were new, so we had to take people with us that we had vetted as up-and-coming talent. That was where Rick helped. The teams had to have the right energy and belief in us, and Madgwick certainly did because we’d been with them in Formula Ford, and Andy Wallace as well.”
The strategy to establish the company as a serious threat to Ralt, March and Lola explains how Adrian accrued his personal collection of significant Reynards. “Basically we lent cars to prominent teams,” he says. “They might win a championship and in due course we got the car back and it went into storage. Sometimes we owned the engine, as is the case with Johnny Herbert’s car, but in others such as Andy’s car we didn’t – that’s why that one is without an engine.”
Next came 1987 and Johnny Herbert’s British F3 title with Eddie Jordan Racing. “We were on a roll then,” says Reynard. “The car didn’t really change that much year to year, mainly for reliability – we improved the manufacturing. And then we would work on the aerodynamics.
“I was already in the windtunnel with these cars. We would make minor changes to the front wings or the sidepods. We actually manufactured our own wheels with aero in mind, which you can see on the Wallace car. It would gain maybe half a mile an hour down the straight, but it might just be enough to get past someone.”
British F3 was full of big-character team bosses and engineers. They can’t have made for the easiest of clients. “They always rated their own contributions highly,” smiles Adrian. “It was always a negotiation and I used to let Rick do most of it. They always wanted works development parts for nothing, and obviously often the car was already loaned. I guess it was a perpetual process of negotiation all year, but on the other hand we felt ourselves as part of the teams too. We needed to input our investment in order to achieve the wins and championships that were so important to our development.
“I’m not saying it was easy going… but we negotiated well. I definitely left Eddie Jordan to Rick! But we had a very good relationship with Robert Synge [at Madgwick] and ‘Wiggy’ [Keith Wiggins at Pacific] was always good to deal with as well. Robert made a tyre-warming oven, which was legal in those days. I don’t know where the idea came from, but it was very good – until it got banned. Wiggy was always working on his own little developments, and started with very basic data-logging.”
Pacific stepped up to British F3 in 1988 and won the title at the first attempt with JJ Lehto. The success also marked a hat-trick for Reynard. “Again the car was just a development,” says Adrian. “We tried to use as many ‘carry-over’ parts from year to year. The monocoque, the fuel tank, the uprights and the bearings would remain, but typically we might change the suspension, the anti-roll bar system and every year they got an aerodynamic upgrade.
“We would also always try to lower the centre of gravity, using ballast. Usually we would redesign rear suspension parts and integrate better gearbox casings, improve the stiffness – anything for better drivability. Our cars were always quite easy to drive – apart from that ground clearance issue on Andy’s car, of course!”
By 1988, Reynard was ready for the next rung on the ladder. “They were all big steps,” says Reynard. “F3 had been major because of the big investment in carbon fibre. We were only a small company with no record in that formula. I did choose to use a lot of the ‘shatter’ technology – carbon-fibre manufacturing. Basically the F3000 tub in 1988 was the same as the F3 tub, but it needed a bigger fuel capacity, so we made a slightly bigger mould and chassis. A lot of people decried it as just an overgrown F3 car.”
Perhaps. But it won. Roberto Moreno’s virgin yellow Bromley Motorsport 88D claimed Reynard the International F3000 crown at its first attempt.
“It was probably the last car in which I had a significant design link,” says Adrian. “By that time Malcolm Oastler had come on board. It had an integral gearbox – we took Hewland internals and made our own. The aerodynamics were pretty good, and I did
the radiator layout.
“We went down to Jerez for the first round and I was more with Johnny Herbert and Eddie Jordan than I was with Roberto Moreno and Gary Anderson. Eddie was our works team, if you like.” Herbert won in Spain, but Moreno scooped victories at Pau, Silverstone and Monza, Johnny then suffered his career-threatening Brands Hatch accident and the little Brazilian claimed another win in Birmingham on his way to the crown. “Roberto and Gary, on a very low budget, used all their experience to win that championship,” says Reynard. “So that’s the car I’ve got from that year, returned from Bromley Motorsport.”
The next car, in the opinion of this writer, is one of Reynard’s finest and a gem from F3000’s greatest era. The 89D won six of the 10 F3000 International rounds, with Jean Alesi scooping three of them and the title for Eddie Jordan. “By then we were a real thorn in Lola’s side. We had other years where we won every single race, but that was satisfying because we had a great competition with them. Malcolm was very much in charge that year and I recall Gary Anderson joined us around that time. Not only did we have Malcolm and Gary, we had Andy Green who is now technical director at Force India, and there was Mark Smith too who went on to big things in F1. How’s that for a strong set of F3000 guys? Part of the reason we were so successful at that time was that I’d let the design go to these wonderful people.”
By 1991, Anderson had joined old rival Jordan to create the lovely 191 and fire a rocket up the F1 establishment. Reynard had his own F1 plans, but they almost ruined him. Instead, destiny lay in wait across the Atlantic.
By the time Adrian pulled the plug on his stillborn F1 project, he’d lost nearly £3 million of his own money. As key recruits Rory Byrne and Pat Symonds headed for Benetton, Reynard turned to the land of opportunity to dig himself out of a financial hole. Good decision, as it turned out.
“We started in 1994 and we failed to win the championship in our first year – but we did win our first race, with Michael Andretti [and Chip Ganassi Racing at Surfers Paradise],” says Adrian. “That shook the whole Indycar scene.
“I’d gone out the year before on an espionage mission, as a race engineer for Russell Spence in Formula Atlantic, and tried to build some relationships. It was tricky because the ‘A teams’, the likes of Newman-Haas and Penske, didn’t want to know. Lola was very well established, as was Ilmor, so it was difficult for us as a new manufacturer to come in and get decent engines, teams, drivers, tyres and budgets.”
The approach was to find alternatives to the status quo, and it soon paid dividends. In 1995 young Jacques Villeneuve blitzed a celebrated double by claiming both the Indy 500 and the title, in a Ford-powered Reynard run by the previously unheralded Team Green. Four more consecutive championships would follow, with Ganassi drivers Jimmy Vasser (’96), Alex Zanardi (’97 and ’98) and Juan Pablo Montoya (’99). By the end of the decade Reynard was dominant, to the point where even mighty Penske abandoned its own chassis in favour of cars from Brackley. “That was satisfying,” says Adrian, drily.
The specific 1996 car in his collection was relatively unremarkable, run by Team Rahal with Mercedes power and driven by Bryan Herta to eighth in the points table. What matters is the era it represents. “The 96I was destined to be a good car,” says Adrian. “By the time we’d sold the first cars in 1994 you could see all the faults and what was needed to make it better for the years after. It represents the wonderful culture we had at the company. Malcolm wasn’t satisfied with the car until we’d been into it for several years.”
How to broach the final two cars in the collection… the story of BAR is not a happy one and coincides with the sudden demise of Reynard Motorsport. Yet here they are, two cars from that era to remind Adrian of all that false promise. Mixed feelings about this pair?
“I think that’s a good way to describe it!” he says, thankfully with a laugh. “It would take a book, really, to go through all the ups, downs and challenges in establishing BAR. It was actually launched a year after it should have been, which was nothing to do with Reynard. In its wisdom, [owner] British American Tobacco decided to buy a team, Tyrrell, rather than establish our own. Jackie Stewart did it, but BAT chose not to and that sucked out a lot of the first-year budget. I was technical director at the time [in 1999] and soon everything started to get strained.”
There was also that unfortunate prediction, that the old Reynard tradition of winning first time out could be maintained in F1, under the BAR moniker. “As a team we didn’t manage expectations very well,” says Adrian, with another scoopful of understatement. “Because of the Reynard tradition everybody – possibly including me! – thought we could go into that formula and punch above our weight. And that didn’t happen.”
In that maiden year, it quickly became obvious that Supertec-badged Renault V10s were never going to match the BAT board’s soaring ambition. “One good thing was that I was able to persuade Honda to come in and virtually save the company, taking a load of pressure off BAT,” says Adrian. “But that again was a disappointing era. Basically the car and engine combination underperformed in the second year. At that stage they were just an engine supplier but I did eventually persuade them to take it all over. And the rest is history.
“Having acquired the site, developed the building, built the windtunnel and hired most of the technical people, it was great to see Ross Brawn come along, take over the reins in 2009 and put a Mercedes engine in the car, then win the championship. By this time I wasn’t involved in the main board, but as a landlord it was somewhat satisfying to see all those investments come to fruition. Since then Mercedes has been able to win two more championships out of the same core product.” Reynard still has an office at the Brackley factory – so even now retains an indirect
link to his old team.
But the pain of his own company’s liquidation in 2002, in the midst of BAR’s continuing struggles, still lingers. “I didn’t expect to have a career without tough times and I had prepared myself and the company for all sorts of eventualities,” he says. “I always thought there would be some major crash and we’d be sued, but that never happened in 30 years. The last thing I thought is we’d go under, but our market went upside down very quickly.
“It’s taken me a long time to get over it – actually I probably never will. I did go out of my way to hire most of the technical people in the team, and to have to stand up and tell them… We’d kept it pretty confidential and kept going until we really couldn’t any more. And everyone was very shocked. It was over very quickly.
“But again, looking back, I don’t regard Reynard’s legacy as a victory for being the world’s biggest race car manufacturer, or for all the races and championships we won. I look at success as the number of careers we launched and the people who are still in the industry since Reynard went down. There is probably no F1 team that doesn’t have ex-Reynard people on its staff. There are people all over the place who had fantastic experiences with us and I feel privileged to have worked with them.”