“I like to think of any success I had achieved in designing racing cars has come about through being able to apply the correct balance between theory and practicality. Theory is very important, of course, but it is the practical application of it which makes it work on the track.”
Ronald Sidney ‘Ron’ Tauranac is a name known in motor racing circles for his achievement and developments in the field of designing competitive single seater racing cars.
He is perhaps most well known for the design and construction of the triple-world champion Jack Brabham’s cars. Tauranac’s Brabham cars, built by his company Motor Racing Developments (MRD) in Weybridge Surrey, dominated Formula Junior, Formula 1 and Formula 3 during the 1960’s, and won the Formula 1 Constructors Championship in 1966 & 1967 with the Repco Brabham BT19 & BT20.
Ron’s Formula 1 Brabham’s won 13 Grand Prix’s, while his Formula 2’s dominated the series, winning 28 of the 47 major races run under the 1 litre class between 1964-1966. In 1966 Brabham-Hondas won 12 of the 15 races held, and private Brabham-Cosworth’s won two of the remainder. This success continued into the1600cc Formula 2 of 1967-1971 with Brabham cars winning 33 of 104 major events. From the BT1 model in 1961 to BT39 in 1972, Ron produced 592 cars.
In 1974 Ron embarked on the production of a new Ralt model, which was a Formula 3 car. Within a year of inception, the RT1 started to win races and Larry Perkins took out the European Formula 3 Championship in 1975. Ralt prospered and fulfilled orders from all over the world, and its car amassed a growing tally of Formula 2 and Formula 3 titles in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
1977 saw Ralts win every Formula 3 Championship in Europe, apart from the Italian series, with such noted drivers as Nelson Piquet and Derek Warwick who switched across to Ralts mid-season. Ralt continued to draw top class drivers including Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill. From 1975 to 1993 Ralt produced a total of 1,083 cars, of which Ron Tauranac takes the credit for 1,047.
In 1995 Ron started consulting to long time engine supplier and partner Honda Motor Sport. He would work on a diverse range of projects over this time before deciding to return to Australia in 2003.
Ron was born in Gillingham, Kent U.K in January 1925. His father was of French extraction and was a boilermaker by trade. Before Ron was four the family immigrated to Australia, during the difficult depression years, and eventually settled in Fassifern, between Newcastle and Sydney.
He had quite an adventurous childhood, and showed resourcefulness and a practical ability to innovate. At the age of 8 he built a canoe from a salvaged sheet of corrugated iron. This entailed flattening the corrugated iron, turning up the ends, sealing them with tar collected from the edge of a bitumen road, and decking it out with board from butter boxes, in which he made a return journey down a river and across a lake.
Ron studied in technical college at Newcastle and then in Wollongong, and later joined Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. He joined the RAAF in 1943, and got his wings in a Harvard aircraft.
In 1946 he was introduced to motorsport through a race meeting at a crude airstrip near Pittown, Sydney. Shortly after, Ron and brother Austin Lewis started to build their first racing car. So the original Ralt was born, the name being formed from the combination of their initials. Ron’s first event in the car was a hill-climb at Hawkesbury NSW. In 1951 Ron set a new Australian record of 17.55 seconds for the standard quarter mile.
This racing brought Ron into contact with another talented man, namely Jack Brabham, who was running a one man engineering business near Sydney. Ron arranged to sub-contract machining work to Jack from CSR Chemicals, where Ron was employed at the time. Though they were rivals on the hill-climb circuit, Ron did suspension tuning in Jack’s car while Jack did some of the machining for Ron’s Ralt development and so a working relationship was formed which was to forge their names in international motor racing history.
Ron Tauranac is an engineer whose practical approach to racing design, detail advances and innovations have produced some of the most successful cars ever recorded in the annals of motorsport. His achievements and contributions were recognised in 2002 when he was awarded the Order of Australia. Ron continues to innovate and inspire and is always looking ahead for the next project he can throw his youthful energy into.