Brabham - Ralt - Honda: The Ron Tauranac story

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by Mike Lawrence, ISBN: 1899870 35 MRP, £16.99

Not many biographies blithely describe their subject as “an unglamorous figure”, but Lawrence makes no attempt to sweeten the pill of his text which makes it clear that working with Ron T could be a searing experience. Instead he lets T’s record on the circuits speak for the man, one of the most prolific racing car designers ever. He has built over 1000 Rafts, for example, and almost 600 Brabhams.

Most of those have contested F2, F3 and F3000 series with immense success, but his portfolio has included F1, Indy and flirtings with sportscars, and Lawrence details all of these, talking to many of those who have worked with Ron in his long career. Apart from the BT Brabhams and his own firm Ralt Cars, the book reports the often unsung input to, amongst many others, Trojan and Theodore, Mirage and, lately, TWR Arrows, as well as his long-time work with Honda, from the 1966 F1 car right until today. Jack Brabham writes the foreword appropriate as they started their careers together in hillclimbs in Australia and it was he who persuaded the young Tauranac over to England where they built up their company, Motor Racing Developments, and their respective reputations in parallel.

This is not exactly a pretty book, with its overcrammed pages and cramped picture sections of no great quality, but the anecdotes enliven a story which, if not glamorous, is important to racing’s history. I liked the tale of the critical Ron telling someone he was washing his hands wrongly. There are no fewer than seven indices, mostly listing Tauranac designs and results, but the first is interesting in itself. It is his philosophy of racing car design, explaining how he likes to approach the problems. It almost makes the job sound easy…