Brian Hart 1936 – 2014

The engine-builder Brian Hart has died at the age of 77. Hart was one of the generation who helped to establish Britain as the centre of the motor racing industry, alongside the likes of Colin Chapman, Keith Duckworth, Mike Hewland and many others.

Brian was trained as an engineer at the De Havilland aircraft company in Hatfield, Hertfordshire. This boasted a string of engineers who were members of the 750 Motor Club, building their own cars and racing them, among them Maurice Philippe, Len Terry and the Costin Brothers. Hart joined them and when Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth founded Cosworth in 1958, Hart was one of the first recruits. He worked in engine development while racing in Formula Junior, F3 and, ultimately, as an F2 driver with Ron Harris’s Lotus factory team. He won a Grovewood Award in 1963 as one of the most promising young drivers in Britain and the following year won a Formula 2 race at Enna against some strong opposition. He would remain a Formula 2 star for some years and even made one Formula 1 World Championship start, driving a wooden-chassised Protos F2 car at the Nurburgring when the F2 cars were allowed to race alongside the F1s. His last major victory came at Hockenheim in 1969, driving a Bob Gerard Brabham.

That year he left Cosworth and established Brian Hart Ltd, to service and develop Ford’s racing engines, notably the FVA and BDA units, which would become the backbone of the company’s activities in rallying and Formula 2 in the 1970s. Hart-developed engines enjoyed much success, notably winning the European F2 title in 1971 with Ronnie Peterson and in 1972 with Mike Hailwood.

Formula 2 was then invaded by BMW and Renault and with Ford withdrawing Hart decided to build his own engines, beginning with the 420R which first appeared in 1976. Two years later, with funding from Ted Toleman, Hart’s engines dominated the European Formula 2 Championship, with the Toleman team finishing 1-2 in the European F2 Championship with drivers Brian Henton and Derek Warwick. Toleman then commissioned Hart to build him a 1.5-litre turbocharged F1 engine for 1981 and the result was the Hart 415T with which Toleman launched its F1 programme. It took a while to develop but in 1984 Ayrton Senna scored Hart’s best F1 result when he finished second at the rain-soaked Monaco GP. The following year Teo Fabi took pole position at the German GP in a Toleman-Hart before the team switched to BMW power. In the years that followed Hart supplied a variety of F1 teams – notably Carl Haas’s FORCE Lola operation – but at the end of 1987 the F1 rules changed to 3.5-litre normally-aspirated engines and as Brian did not have the money to build his own engine he joined forces with Cosworth to develop the company’s DFZ and DFR engines, notably with the Tyrrell team. This work continued into 1990 when Jean Alesi produced some stunning performances.

By 1992 Hart had found the money to develop his own V10 engine – the Type 1035 – and in November that year he announced an exclusive deal to supply Jordan Grand Prix in 1993 and 1994. The result was highly competitive, but at the end of 1994 the team was given the chance to use free Peugeot V10 engines and Hart had to do a deal with Arrows, which was struggling for money. The team used Brian’s V8 engines because there was no money to build the new V10 that Hart was planning. In 1998 Hart moved on to Minardi but in the summer he began to work on another V10 design. This became the Arrows V10 in 1999 when Tom Walkinshaw bought Brian Hart Ltd. There was legal action over money in the course of the 1999 season and Hart, who was by then aged 63, decided he had had enough and retired to a house in rural France.

24 thoughts on “Brian Hart 1936 – 2014

  1. Thank you for this amazing piece on Brian. I knew him, or thought I did, but after reading your report, I knew very little. Happy New Year. If you are coming to Autosport please let me know.

  2. Thanks for this too Joe – much appreciated.

    It may seem banal with this sad passing and the Schumi accident, but happy new year sir.


  3. Hi Joe,
    I’m not sure I should enjoy reading an obituary but the ones presented here are always fascinating. You give a real window in the past that’s not available to the tv watching F1 fan. Good job!
    Will there be an audience with Joe in Austria this year?

  4. Certainly one of the coolest guys I ever met in my F1 days. Decent, honest, down to earth and a fantastic wine drinker.
    Wagner Gonzalez

    1. “…a fantastic wine drinker.”

      He chose a good country to retire to didn’t he? A wine-producing region perhaps?


  5. Thank you Hart Power!

    F1’s last independent Engine Wizard that Performed miracles without a budget.

    Still remember 1996, Arrows was one of the last V8’s users, a Hart with Mechanical operated Valves while everybody else was using Pneumatic Valves that could rev much higher.
    Resulting in many broke Hart V8’s despite being detuned to lower revs.

    Too bad Walkinshaw never gave Hart the Budget he deserved (and was promised), if he did 96 could have been a different season for Arrows.

    Tuesday April 2, 1996

    Bryan Hart, the constructor of the Hart-V8 in the Arrows cars, has offered his apologies to Jos Verstappen for the performance of the engine. Verstappen had problems with the valves of the engine both in Melbourne as in Sao Paulo last weekend. Verstappen pushes the engine much further to its limit than his predecessors and his team-mate Rosset. The Arrows-team had already limited the engine with 300rpm but it still broke down. Hart said that the problems can’t be solved within two months.

    BTW was Hart not involved with making the Yamaha OX V10 engine reliable in 97? Something Yamaha themselves could not do.

  6. thank you Joe for this kind tribute to another giant of an era that was before the corporate suite, hospitality and branding phenonmenon which we have today. may he Rest In Peace.

  7. One of the nicest men you could meet. Glad you mentioned Brian’s very significant contribution to Tyrrell’s 1990 season. You would think after 23 years there wouldn’t have been anything left to get out of the Cosworth, but Brian kept finding real gains by improving the oil scavenging and exhaust systems. It was almost comical at times though – the proper engine manufacturers had their own dedicated trucks in the paddock, with hordes of engineers and telemetry and so on, whilst Brian and Neil Roper would just show up in the garage on a Thursday morning with a laptop and a briefcase containing an ECU – entirely fitting for the rather pleasantly old-school Tyrrell Racing Organisation. I suppose Alesi’s two second places that year must have been the DFV-derived engine’s last.

    RIP Harty.

  8. I was married to Tony Hart’s daughter (Brain’s brother & Chief Draughtsman) & as such I met Brian many times at his home near Harlow, his factory & at the track. He was a man who didn’t suffer fools gladly but was always wonderful company & a huge personality. For me, the three stand out memories are being shown his ‘trophy’ cabinet at the factory which consisted of various twisted bits of engine all with comments from the drivers, being invited to his sons christening party & having the opportunity to talk to Mike Costin for an hour & Brian regaling us over dinner with the story of loaning one of his engines to Footwork Arrows to prove to the Porsche engineers that their V12 was seriously overweight!!!!

    A sad loss & I would like to extend my sincere condolences to all of his family.

    1. Thank You, Martin. Some good memories. Brian would be pleased you remembered him and held him in such high regard. Best wishes , Carol Cole (nee Hart)

  9. Sad news, by all accounts Brian had a fantastic personality and was a racing man through and through. The 1994 Jordan has to be one of my favourite F1 cars and in retrospect how remarkable it was that the team achieved the results it did – thanks to Barrichello’s driving, Gary Anderson’s car and of course not least, Brian’s fantastic privateer engine. Back then he seemed a throwback to a bygone era in his attitude and approach to F1, but yet he achieved miracles with that engine, and latterly with Arrows. To imagine the absurdity of him fitting into F1 now just shows how much has changed in the ‘sport’ in the last 20 years – and to think then we were moaning about the corporate side of the sport pushing out blokes like Brian. A good man who put his life and soul into doing what he did.

  10. In the early 70’s I worked at Stanstd Airport where Ford Motor Co had three aircraft. One of the Captains had an RS1600 as a company car. He said that he’d taken it to the “man in Harlow” who had changed the jets and chokes and made it “fly”. “What man in Harlow?” “The man who builds them for Ford” was he reply

  11. As Mr Beresford says, Brian was good fun to have around at Tyrrell..always keen to have a laugh and joke about something..RIP

  12. Nice post as ever. I had no idea that he’d raced himself to a high standard> My best memory (rightly or wrongly) will always be his association/contribution to that wonderful Monaco 1984 performance of Senna/Toleman…..magic!

  13. I knew him slightly through working at Chamberlain Engineering where we ran a modified Hart 415T in Spice C2 and Tiga Thundersports chassis’s. His face would light up when he recalled Ayrton Senna’s first test for Toleman when he lapped the F1 car 2.5 sec quicker than it ever lapped Slverstone before! A brilliant engineer, a fine driver and a ‘nice’ man.

  14. RIP Brian, only just heard ! fond memories of following f2/3 races in motoring news in late 50s/60s as a youngster,on hol for 6 weeks with brians mum and his dad Fred (my godfather) constant torment for his parents,especially when he injured his back badly at Enna.Talented driver and exceptional engineer.

  15. As a pattern maker i made a few patterns for Brian’s engines in my younger days. At that time we had no cad it was all from drawings his brother Tony drew. I met the man a few times once at a motorway service station with drawing chatting about details over a cup of tea. Happy days a nice man to work for. Often wondered what happened to Jane. Ken ( j A Broadfields )

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