Robert Kenneth Tyrrell
Team Owner, Principal from 1952-1998

Tyrrell has a chat with Cevert and Stewart

Photograph: Schlegelmilch  (buy it)
The great Ken Tyrrell began everything as a lumberman. He and his brother, Bert, started a lumber company in East Horsley. Their company was successful, due to hard work and straight shooting, business-wise.

One weekend, Ken's football club (and Ken was quite the serious footballer), made an outing to a sportscar race. Ken was hooked. Less than a year later, Ken was competing, and the timberyard became a race shoppe. During his racing, he earned the nickname "Chopper" for his slightly defensive style of driving. He was moderately successful, but when he got blown off by the young Bruce McLaren at Brands Hatch, Tyrrell decided that he'd be better at running a team than driving.

Ken Tyrrell started managing the Formula Junior works team for Cooper Car Company. After tremendous success in Formula Junior, Tyrrell ran the Formula Three team. It was then that he found the youthful John Young Stewart.

Tyrrell, Stewart and Cooper cleaned up in Formula Three, and Tyrrell began running the works Cooper F2 team in 1966. Success continued, and Tyrrell met with Matra about beginning a Formula One effort.

Matra produced a fine chassis, and Tyrrell was able to coax Stewart away from BRM to join his Formula One team for 1968. In 1969, Tyrrell's Matra Equipe International were the World Champions. For 1970, Matra insisted on powering their car with their own Matra V12, which Ken and Stewart found unfit. Tyrrell was about to become a Formula One Constructor.

After a "building" season with the March 701, Tyrrell put the genious of designer Derek Gardner to work, and Tyrrell labelled Gardner's creation "Tyrrell 001." The rollout of the Tyrrell "Secret Project" from a wooden shed completely baffled both the press and all of Tyrrell's competitors. Tyrrell rocked the world with his new car and team. In 1971, Stewart drove the Tyrrell to his second Formula One World Championship, and Francois Cevert came third in the championship, icing Tyrrell as a Formula One Constructor's Champion.

Stewart was off of his game for some of 1972, and mechanical problems otherwise kept Tyrrell from defending his title. 1973, however, with a new Gardner design, was different, with Stewart and Cevert sweeping much of the Championship. Stewart told "Uncle Ken" of his intention to retire at the end of the season, and Stewart spent the year ensuring that Cevert was ready to take over. Francois died trying to make his place as a championship contender in Formula One at the 1973 United States Grand Prix, and Tyrrell's second Constructor's Championship was lost. Tyrrell and his close-knit family team were jarred by the death of their own, but they bravely regrouped for what was looking to be a very difficult 1974 season.

Tyrrell's '74 season was not easy, without experienced leadership. Tyrrell had found young South African, Jody Scheckter, to take Cevert's place, and Scheckter drove well for his first full season with the British team.

Gardner had a new idea for 1975, and with even more awe, the press and competition watched as the sheet was pulled from two wheels, then two front wheels, then two more. The six-wheeled P34 was the kind of innovation that Tyrrell became famous for.

Unfortunately, the innovation came with limited success. Bearing a yellow stripe signalling an engine deal with Renault, the P34's only won once, in the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix. Scheckter and Depailler took what would sadly be the last of Ken Tyrrell's 1-2 podium sweeps.

Tyrrell stuck with Ford through the turbo revolution, and was labelled a cheater for his devotion. Michele Alboreto won Tyrrell's last Grand Prix in 1982, in front of Ford's headquarters at Detroit.

Tyrrell's reputation as a talent scout was second-to-none, and he proved his ability again by plucking up Stefan Bellof. In a memorably wet 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, everyone noticed the new boy Senna, on the move to take on Prost for the lead when the race was red-flagged for safety. Not as many noticed that as quickly as Senna was catching Prost, Bellof was catching Senna. Sadly, Bellof's promise of greatness was never to come as he was killed in a Porsche 956 before he had come to full potential.

In one final great move, Tyrrell picked up Jean Alesi, who showed immediate speed and took his Tyrrell 019 to a memorable second to Ayrton Senna at the 1990 United States Grand Prix. It would be the last gasp for the team, which folded in 1997. Ken Tyrrell sold his team to BAR, and was to stay on the board until BAR insisted upon passing on Tyrrell's first choice of Jos Verstappen. Tyrrell quietly resigned.

Just a few years later, in August of 2001, the great Ken Tyrrell succumbed to cancer.


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