Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Grumpy Jackal
18th April – On this day 1971: Tyrrell’s first ever win.
Like Enzo Ferrari – some generations before – Ken Tyrrell recognised his talents lay in management rather than driving and retired from driving in 1959. Within two years he was running the Cooper Formula Junior team and the Mini Coopers from his wood shed in Ockham, Surrey; where he ran a timber merchant business with his brother.
A keen eye for talent, he discovered Jackie Stewart in 1963 and progressed through the ranks until in 1968 he achieved his dream of Formula One as team principal for Matra. The 1969 car was designed by Gerard Ducarouge and – mated to a Cosworth DFV – took Stewart to the drivers title.
Matra then merged with Simca and wanted design to centre around their V12 engine but Stewart tested the engine and knew it was inferior to the Ford engine.
Other problems surfaced… Matra-Simca was a subsidiary of Chyrsler, a direct competitor to Ford who provided the engine and considerable funds to the Tyrrell team; and Elf – a French state-owned oil company had agreements in place with ‘another’ state-owned company – Renault – not supporting partnerships with Simca.
The decision was easy; Tyrrell bought a March 701 to run Cosworth engines in 1970, but commissioned Derek Gardner to design the first Tyrrell 001 in secret.
It was ready by the 1970 Canadian GP and whilst quick enough for pole positions suffered mechanical failures at its first three starts. At the 1971 South African GP Stewart qualified it on pole and finished second. After four races it was redundant and replaced by the new Tyrrell 003 for the 1971 Spanish Grand Prix.
The Montjuich circuit was a fast, breathless track that rewarded power over handling dexterity – or so conventional wisdom thought – and qualifying saw six of the first eight cars running with V12 engines. The problem was no-one had told Stewart.
Due to conflicting bull fights in the afternoon, the 1971 Spanish race was held in the morning to allow crowds to attend both events and as the revs rose Stewart punched through from the standing start and took up position behind Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari before forcing his way through to lead on lap four.
What followed were 70 laps of an absorbing battle as two of the finest exponents of Formula One battled using their respective advantages to counter the other. Stewart keeping ahead with a nimble handling chassis and Ickx replying with the power of the Ferrari.
It’s significant though that this was the first race that slick tyres were used. In South Africa – Goodyear had provided tyres with minimal treads. Firestone arrived in Spain with slick tyres that had been produced by it American open-wheel division but as Saturday had been wet – their first use was during the Grand Prix itself.
Stewart had extended his lead but over the closing laps reduced his pace and Ickx closed the gap to just 3.4 seconds at the finish. Chris Amon – a highly rated jockey – was nearly a minute behind after 75 laps.
Stewart won the first ever race for a Tyrrell chassis and would go on to secure the Drivers and Constructor’s Championships at their first attempt.