If you asked Ron Tauranac to name the best of the many great cars he designed he would say ‘it's the next one’. He was never a man to rest on his laurels. And there were plenty on which this legendary engineer could have rested.
Best known for founding the Brabham team alongside his friend Jack Brabham in the 1960s, he was also revered for his Ralts, especially the Honda-powered cars that dominated Formula 2. So many young drivers made their names in Ralts in the 1970s and ‘80s. The cars were, quite simply, essential equipment, from the RT1 through to the RT4, launching the careers of those with their sights set on Grand Prix racing.
In the 1950s, having emigrated to Australia, he and his brother Austin built hillclimb cars which they called RALT, as in Ron and Austin Lewis Tauranac.
In the early 1960s Ron followed Jack Brabham back to England where they established Motor Racing Developments and the rest, of course, is their own chapter in motor racing history. Not only did Jack win the World Championship in 1966 but his team-mate Denny Hulme made it two in a row for Brabham in 1967.
Tauranac with Derek Bell and Frank Williams at the 1973 US Grand Prix.
When Jack retired in 1970, Ron took over the Brabham Formula 1 team, designing the famous ‘lobster claw’ BT34 for the 1971 and ’72 seasons. The car was radical at the time, featuring double radiators ahead of the front wheels, but by this time he was ready for a new challenge. He sold the team to Bernie Ecclestone in ‘71, staying on to design the cars until Ecclestone reorganised the team and it became clear there was no place for Tauranac in his plans for the future.
Ron’s sudden departure from the team led to the formation of Ralt and a rewarding decade of success for the man who was happiest when designing and engineering rather than chasing sponsors and running a business.
Inventive, active and busy right to the end, Ron Tauranac enjoyed a long and extraordinary 95 years. He died peacefully at his home in Queensland where, when I last spoke to him on the phone at his house in Bondi Junction, we chatted about Jack Brabham. “We were friends from way back, yeah, but we didn’t talk that much, only when something needed toget done. Jack’s championships, they speak for themselves don’t they?”
What was all the noise in the background I asked him? That day he was working on a ‘widget’ to stop the wind from the ocean rattling the blinds on his windows. I’m sure it did the job.
Pragmatic and practical to the end, and never a man to use ten words when five would do, Ron always had his eye on the next project, the next thing to fix. All those who won in a Ralt, or a Brabham, will be saluting him.