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.