The architect of BRM’s Formula One glory days in the 1960s has died, aged 80. Under Tony Rudd’s direction, the Bourne-based team won the drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 1962.
Upon leaving school, Rudd started an apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce and was soon heavily involved in the company’s war effort. One of his duties was studying the defects and failures of the Merlin engine. That experience made him well suited to motor racing as the sport re-emerged after WWII and he was snapped up by BRM shortly after its disastrous debut at Silverstone in 1950. Rudd would remain with it for nearly two decades, and his quiet approach and engineering excellence were central to the team’s transition from national embarrassment to grand prix winner.
Initially, Rudd worked with Peter Berthon on the recalcitrant V16 and his reworked Mk2 engine produced some success in the mid-50s, notably in British Formula Libre races. But it was grand prix success that the team’s owner Sir Alfred Owen wanted, and Rudd’s P25 design was a major step forward. Not only was he central to the design of the car and its 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine, he also showed considerable prowess at its wheel during early testing. Finally, in the 1959 Dutch GP at Zandvoort, Jo Bonnier’s P25 delivered BRM’s first major victory.
Another fallow period ensued, and Sir Alfred issued a chilling edict: win in 1962 or be disbanded.
Although reluctant to progress at Berthon’s expense, Rudd was by now team manager and chief engineer. The pressure was on. And he wasn’t found wanting.
Under his leadership, the team flourished and his P57 design took Graham Hill to four GP wins in 1962. As he had with Jean Behra in the late 1950s, Rudd developed a strong relationship with Hill, despite them being wary of each other initially.
Second place in the constructors’ table for the three following seasons firmly established BRM as a major power. But the move to the 3-litre F1 in 1966 proved to be its — and Rudd’s — undoing. His H16 engine was simply too complex and unreliable. It took just one win — and that was in the back of a Lotus.
Rudd stayed put until 1969 — then began a second successful career as the technical director at… Lotus! For two decades he built up Lotus Engineering as a major research supplier for car manufacturers and helped steer the F1 team to four constructors’ titles.
He is survived by his wife Pamela and three daughters. PL
Stewart on Rudd
“In 1964, when I was driving for Ken Tyrrell in F3, Tony Rudd and Raymond Mays approached me during the French GP. Colin Chapman had made overtures, as had Cooper, but BRM was the first F1 team to make a full-on approach. I was flattered because they were very strong at the time, and I decided to go with them.
“Tony was a practical, no-nonsense man, whom I felt comfortable with and knew I could rely on. He was not a dictator in the way that Ken could sometimes be, but he earned the respect of the team by the way he went about his business. He was a very sound engineer who could turn his hand to engines and chassis.
“His way of standing back caused him some problems. At Monza in 1965, I won my first grand prix after my team-mate Graham Hill made a mistake on the last lap. I have since read that Tony was worried because we were racing each other so hard. But we weren’t cutting each other up; in those days you were constantly passing and repassing at Monza. And we had not been given any team orders; Ken would have laid the law down. But Tony — and Graham — handled what could have been a difficult situation brilliantly. I was the quick new guy and it could have been awkward – the team could have sided with its long-serving number one. But there was never any aggravation and I always felt I was dealt with in exactly the same way as Graham. I never felt he was looking to get the best kit — and a lot of that was down to Tony. Even when my situation at BRM got difficult with the H16, which was Tony’s project, there was never a cross word between us.”