F1 legend Ken Tyrrell dead at age 77

By Tom Haapanen - motorsport.com One of the most influential and best-known Formula One team owners, Ken Tyrrell, died early this morning at his home in Surrey after a lengthy battle with cancer, having been diagnosed with the disease in ...

By Tom Haapanen - motorsport.com

One of the most influential and best-known Formula One team owners, Ken Tyrrell, died early this morning at his home in Surrey after a lengthy battle with cancer, having been diagnosed with the disease in 1999.

Sir Jackie Stewart, who scored fifteen victories and two World Championships with Tyrrell, said ""My heart is deeply saddened by the passing of a great friend. Ken was the most important person in my life outside my family. Without him, I would not be where I am today."

Tyrrell had been attracted by racing in his late 20s, having first seen a race in Silverstone in 1951. He soon bought his first racing car, and was a front-runner throughout the 50s in F2 and F3.

However, in 1958, he gave up his profession as a timber merchant, and started managing the works Cooper F2 team. Two years later, though, he was on his own, and Tyrrell Racing Organization (originally Ken Tyrrell Racing Team) entered Coopers in Formula Junior.

Running from his shop in Ockham, Surrey, TRO progressed to F3 in 1964. Further, he inked the deal that was to be remembered for decades, signing a young Scot named Jackie Stewart to drive for him in the F3 championship.

"His influence on my driving career was enormous," said Stewart. "He was so much more than the team owner and team manager. He taught me, he coached me, he pushed and shoved me. We argued and we laughed."

Stewart went on to win the British F3 championship that year, and was immediately signed up by BRM for their Formula One team the next year. Tyrrell, meanwhile, continued in F2 and F3, and Stewart ran F2 races for TRO alongside Jacky Ickx.

Ken Tyrrell made his entry to Formula One in 1968 with Matra, entering the championship as Equipe Matra International, and running the new Cosworth DFV engine, and with Jackie Stewart back in the Tyrrell fold.

"We didn't have a contract after our first year because, quite simply, we didn't need one," recalled Stewart. "In his time, Ken was simply the best."

The Tyrrell-Stewart pairing won three Grands Prix in 1968, and then six in 1969, earning both the Drivers' Championship and the Constructors' Championship, in only yhre team's second year in the top tier of motorsport.

When Matra decided to quit while at the top, Tyrrell ran March chassis in 1970, with a Stewart victory in Spain, but began to secretly design and build the Tyrrell 001.

The car, officially designated the 003, first saw action at the 1970 Canadian Grand Prix, where it led until it suffered a stub axle failure. In 1971, though, Ken Tyrrell and Jackie Stewart were again unbeatable, the little Scot piloting Tyrrell's new chassis to seven victories and another double championship.

1973 looked to be another banner year, and Stewart was 17 points clear of challengers after the penultimate race of the year, at Mosport. Tyrrell was tied for the Constructors' lead, going into the final race of the season, the US Grand Prix.

However, Stewart's teammate, Francois Cevert, crashed violently in the uphill "Esses" on the Watkins Glen circuit in morning practice, taking his life instantly.

Both Tyrrell and Stewart were deeply shaken by the incident, and the team withdrew from the race, giving up the opportunity to win the Chstructors' Championship in the memory of a lost teammate and friend.

"I had decided in April that I would retire at the end of the season, win or lose," Stewart recalled. "Watkins Glen was going to be my last race in a Formula One car. Francois Cevert was going to be number one in the team for 1974, although he never knew it. Ken Tyrrell and I had kept it a secret that I was going to retire after that race. In fact, not even my wife, Helen, who was with me that weekend, knew."

Stewart kept to his word, and left Formula One after 1974. Tyrrell now signed Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler, and had occasional flashes of success, including the famous Tyrrell six-wheeler in 1976.

But by the late 1970s, Tyrrell had lost his major sponsor, Elf, and the remaining years were to be an ongoing struggle for funding, and in trying to make up with innovations what couldn't be bought.

Ken Tyrrell also lived up to his reputation as a spotter of new talent, and many of the brightest stars in Formula One spent time in a Tyrrell seat at first -- until they were noticed by the bigger teams with fatter wallets.

In addition to Stewart, Tyrrell signed Didier Pironi, Michele Alboreto, Stefan Bellof, Martin Brundle, Jean Alesi and Mika Salo, all talented drivers spotted by Tyrrell before anyone else noticed them.

However, by 1998, Tyrrell had had enough, and at the age of 74, he was ready to sell out. The Tyrrell Racing Organization was sold to the new British American Racing Team, and Ken Tyrrell took on a well-earned retirement, after some 45 years of racing.

Tyrrell's 31 years of running a Formula One team are unmatched in the sport to date, with only Frank Williams now approaching the mark.

Martin Whitaker, the European director of Ford Racing, said that the sport had lost a great competitor.

"Together with a dedicated band of engineers and mechanics, Ken took on the established marques of the sport -- Ferrari, Lotus and BRM -- and beat them with a combination of talent and flair."

"In his time, Ken was simply the best, Whitaker continued. "His moral fibre was incredibly strong and his integrity extremely deep and sincere."

Formula One will truly miss Ken Tyrrell.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jean Alesi , Mika Salo , Martin Brundle , Jackie Stewart , Jacky Ickx , Michele Alboreto , Frank Williams , Jody Scheckter , Didier Pironi , Stefan Bellof , Patrick Depailler , François Cévert
Teams Ferrari , Williams , British American Racing