Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler: BlackJack’sBriefs
As with my series on drivers, I started with the Wiki ‘List of Formula One Constructors’ and quickly reduced 136 to 43 eligible constructors by removing the Champions, and those hopefuls who failed to last beyond two or three seasons, and also those who only competed before 1958. [See Part-20 – Intro for details.]
“Badges? I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!””
In 1966 Ted Toleman (with brother, Bob, and Alex Hawkridge) assumed control of a ‘trucking’ company (delivering Ford cars) in Essex, England, founded by his grandfather forty years earlier, which eventually would run four hundred transporters.
In the 70’s Toleman Motorsport became involved in the junior formulae in British racing before quickly rising to F2 in 1978 when they were joined by a young Rory Byrne who designed the first Toleman car for 1980, which, in the hands of Brian Henton and Derek Warwick, took 1st & 2nd in the European F2 Championship.
With those laurels won Toleman announced a F1 entry.
Byrne’s first F1 car, the TG181, was (under)powered by a Hart t/c engine, and also over-weight, and both drivers failed to qualify for a single race until Henton scraped in at Monza. It took until the final race in Las Vegas before Warwick also got onto the grid – an inauspicious debut.
Henton had actually arrived in F1 in 1975 when Jacky Ickx got bored with the under-perfoming Lotus and Henton was given a trial, along with Jim Crawford and John Watson, none of whom set the tracks alight. Two years later he was given another chance, which was a complete waste of his time. It was three years before he reappeared in F1, and again achieved nothing. In 1982, Brian had a couple of races for Arrows before joining Tyrrell where he started to show promise, and recorded fastest lap at Silverstone… but that was his last year in F1.
Warwick had unorthodoxly started in (British) Stock Cars and was English Champion at the age of 16… At 23 he was British F3 Champion.
Warwick was now joined by Teo(dorico) Fabi but a new car wasn’t forthcoming and they had to wait until the last two races before the team prematurely wheeled out the TG183 – they hadn’t even bothered to cross the Atlantic for Detroit and Canada. By Brands Hatch both drivers were occasionally qualifying, at the rear, but the cars rarely finished a race. However, to everyone’s surprise, Warwick recorded the fastest lap at Zandvoort – with a low fuel level and soft tyres… Fabi left F1, took a trip across to IndyCars and, in his second race, the Indy-500, put himself on Pole (as well as posting fastest lap), and repeated this four more times… as well as also winning four races, and three more podiums, to place 2nd overall – the top Rookie of the Year. It seems F1 didn’t bring the best out of him.
Finally, with the TG183B, things began to improve, Bruno Giacomelli arrived from Alfa Romeo, though he was outclassed by Warwick, who, after a year of retirements, scored Toleman’s first Championship points, in the last four races, and Bruno also scored one point in the final race. Toleman took themselves off the bottom to finish 9th in the Championship, still at the back of the midfield, but ahead of nine other teams who didn’t seem to know
which way was forward.
Derek Warwick moved to Renault, where he scored four podium finishes for his best season in eleven consecutive years. Toleman turned up in Brazil with the previous year’s car but also with a ‘ringer’ – Ayrton Senna, who had just taken the British F3 Championship, following two FF2000 Championships in 1982, and two FF Championships in 1981.
The rest is surely well known – Ayrton had tested for Williams, McLaren, Brabham and Toleman – the first two didn’t have a vacancy for 1984, and Piquet, being from Rio, and not enamoured with Sao Paulistas, allegedly convinced Brabham’s sponsors to go with Roberto Moreno. Senna signed with Toleman… and was joined by Venezuelan, Johnny Cecotto, who had performed well in F2 in 1982, followed by a poor year with ‘Theodore’ in 1983, where he managed to score one point – which was more than he scored with Toleman before sadly limping off to BTCC in 1985.
After four races with last year’s car (where, in Brazil, Senna was the first driver to retire that year and, at Imola, he recorded his only F1 failure to qualify – neither were his fault) Byrne, and newcomer Pat Symonds, introduced the TG184 and, in a wet Monaco, Senna took his car from 13th on the grid to 2nd… at which point the leader, Prost, being caught at around 4secs./lap, started waving at the stewards indicating the race should be stopped, which happened three laps later. Prost slowed, and was passed by Senna but, of course the results were taken from the previous lap. With a shortened race only half points were awarded – 4½ for Prost.
Subsequently Jackie Ickx was reprimanded for not consulting with the stewards before dropping the flag but it left a bad taste because Prost’s McLaren had a Porsche engine… and Ickx was a Porsche sports-car driver…
Even worse, for Prost, was that, if it had run it’s course, even if he had been beaten by Senna, 2nd place would have gained him 6pts., giving him an extra one and half Championship points. In the event Prost lost the Championship in 1984 to Lauda – by just half a point… Nevertheless it was later discovered Senna’s car had suspension damage and probably wouldn’t have finished the race, but he did record the fastest lap. Oh yes… and Prost’s car had major brake problems, and might not have lasted long either…
As for Prost and Senna – were any two drivers more fated to clash…
And as for Toleman… it wasn’t until Britain that Senna was able to get back on the podium, while Cecotto had a bad crash and his injuries put him out of F1. After three races with one car Stefan Johansson arrived after a chequered career – a race here, a couple there – and took 4th place at Monza. He would later do much better with Ferrari and McLaren, before an equally slow withdrawal from the sport.
Meanwhile Pierluigi Martini made a debut F1 appearance, substituting for Ayrton, who was sitting on the ‘naughty step’ for having broken his contract and signed for Lotus. Pierluigi failed to qualify and went on to experience eight years with Minardi, with one year off in the middle, for good behaviour, with Scuderia Italia.
Toleman had been joined this year by Peter Gethin, as team manager, most famed for winning the nail-biting Italian GP in 1971 when the top five cars were covered by 0.61secs. Gethin arrived in F1 to replace the recently deceased Bruce McLaren, in 1970 but his relationship with Teddy mayer wasn’t good and he moved to BRM (to replace the recently deceased Pedro Rodriguez…) just before that legendary Monza victory… which was also the fastest F1 race at that time – a record that lasted for 32 years.
Toleman finished 1984 in 7th place – their best so far.
Teo Fabi (remember him…?), after a brilliant year in IndyCars, and then a further year, half in IndyCars, and half in F1, with Brabham, now returns to Toleman, ably assisted by major sponsor, Benetton, but Toleman had a major tyre hiatus. In 1984 Toleman had ‘dumped’ their Pirelli contract mid-season in favour of Michelin but… Michelin pulled out at the end of the year and Toleman were unable to do a deal with Goodyear, perhaps because Toleman had previously done the same thing to them (dumping Goodyear in favour of Pirelli) in their F2 days… and Pirelli weren’t interested. As a result Toleman were simply unable to compete but, prior to the fourth race, Benetton did some kind of deal with the badly struggling, one-car, ‘Spirit’ team, who were encouraged to spirit themselves out of the way, allowing Toleman to ‘buy’ their Pirelli contract…
For five races Fabi qualified in the mid-field and retired with mechanical issues before the mid-point of the race but, in Germany, things changed. Remember when there used to be two qualifying sessions, one on Friday, and a second on Saturday…? and the best time, from either day, dictated the grid position. If you didn’t get a decent time on Friday, and it rained on Saturday – tough…! Well, even so, to his credit, Fabi put his car onto Pole on Friday – and it rained on Saturday. It was Toleman’s only pole position, but Fabi’s first – he would have two more, the following year, for Benetton. In the race Fabi again retired with a mechanical issue.
In the next race Teo was joined by Piercarlo Ghinzani, who had eight years in F1, mostly with Osella, and scored 2pts. For Toleman he had seven entries, started five races, and retired five times, while Fabi continued to qualify well – but the cars, often the Hart engine, simply wouldn’t stay in one piece.
In the final roundup Toleman were back on the bottom of the pile, not scoring a single point during the year.
Over the winter Ted Toleman sold the operation to the increasingly ambitious Benetton company, who managed to get much needed BMW engines to put in Byrne’s TG186 car, which was simply re-dubbed, B186. Teo Fabi stayed onboard, and retired from eleven of the sixteen races, but did manage two pole positions, and a fastest lap. Gerhard Berger, in his second full season, was a tad more fortunate, though not always faster, and took the team’s first victory, in the penultimate race in Mexico… The team was the fastest of all the BMW-powered, and all the Pirelli-shod, teams…
But… by then, it was no longer Toleman…
I wanted to show a YouTube clip of Senna at Monaco but… even after thirty years… Formula One Management, has blocked it… “The dirty, evil bastards…!” (©Catherine Tate)
. . . but, by searching around, I found a Japan version – but still with commentary by Hunt and Murray, who gives one of his special comments, regarding the drivers’ problems in the rain:
“I imagine, in the cockpit, it must be absolutely unimaginable…”
There is an odd postscript to this story, which appears on the web, but with little substantiation. It always used to be a point of honour (if not a legal requirement) that any story should be corroborated by two, independent, sources. The 21st C. doesn’t always follow this pattern and, around the world people can be villified for no other reason than that someone else makes an accusation that is believed, which probably says more about the agenda of the believer… This has happened frequently this year following the demise of Jack Brabham who has been accused of ‘regularly’ putting an inside wheel into the dirt in order to throw grit and gravel into the face of a following driver. In fact the only contemporary reports of this act refer to one incident involving Stirling Moss (who was following) and it was never (I believe) suggested to have been deliberate. Urban myth…?
So, if you don’t like scandals, please consider this article to have ended.
If you continue reading please be aware that emotional accusations without legitimate evidence may be taken with a pinch of salt.
Ted Toleman was born, Norman Edward, in South Africa, and was adopted into the Toleman family. I can find no evidence of real parentage nor how the adoption came about. When Ted took over the company his younger (presumably, step-) brother, Bob, became joint-MD with Alex Hawkridge, who had joined the company as a clerk, just a couple of years earlier.
During the 70’s Ted & Bob tried FF, and were about to take on South African, Royale driver, Rad Dougall, but he had a crash and was out of action for a while. A few weeks later Bob Toleman also crashed, and died… leaving Hawkridge as sole MD. In 1978 Toleman entered F2, with cars run by Tom Walkinshaw, driven by Rad Dougall and Brian Henton.
Around 1992 Ted sold the Toleman trucking company… and, with NatWest Bank and HM Customs & Excise apparently keen to have a chat, retired to a banana plantation in South Africa. alleged to have absconded with a greater part of the share of the family business than he was entitled to, including his (adoptive?) mother’s 37%.
Owing to ‘increasing lawlessness’ in South Africa Ted’s son Michael returned to England with his family, as did son, Gary’s, (now ex-)wife and children. But Gary stayed… In 1999, after his wife died, Ted moved to Australia, and now floats between there and the Phillipines. In 2003 Gary was shot and killed in a petrol-forecourt robbery.