Brian Hart, an English Formula One engine builder, has died today at the age of 77. Hart’s lightweight creations always seemed to punch above their weight.
He competed in several non-championship F1 races as a driver in the 1950s through 1960s, and made a single Grand Prix start in the 1967 German Grand Prix.
Where he excelled was in engine construction, with the creation of Brian Hart Limited in 1969. Hart first worked with Cosworth after serving an apprenticeship at the de Havilland aircraft company in Hatfield. Hart-tuned Ford Cosworths did well in the 1970s and in 1981, he entered Formula One with a 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine to supply the also-new Toleman team.
Hart-built engines powered Toleman until the team was sold to Benetton (this is now the current Lotus squad), and also the RAM, Haas Lola and Tyrrell teams in the 1980s before turbocharging was banned at the end of 1988. One of the highlights in that stint was Ayrton Senna’s runner-up finish in the rain-shortened 1984 Monaco Grand Prix.
In the 1990s, Hart returned in the normally aspirated era with Jordan and Arrows. Less success followed although there were two additional podiums, when Rubens Barrichello came third in the 1994 Pacific Grand Prix and Gianni Morbidelli took the marque’s final podium in the 1995 Australian Grand Prix. Hart’s last two years in F1 came when his V10s were badged as Arrows in 1998 and 1999, and Brian Hart Limited was sold to Arrows team boss Tom Walkinshaw.
Interestingly, the one year a Hart powerplant didn’t supply Arrows from 1995 through 1999 was in 1997, when Walkinshaw’s team signed reigning World Champion Damon Hill and switched to Yamahas. Hart powered Minardi’s entries that year.
Gary Anderson, a veteran designer who worked with the Jordan-Hart operation in 1993 and 1994, told Autosport, “There was nothing in the world as satisfying for Brian Hart and myself as taking on the big boys who had 10 times the budget and showing them up on Sunday afternoon!”
Meanwhile Taki Inoue, who drove the Arrows-Hart in 1995 and is better known now for his candid, humorous style on Twitter, had this genuine tribute:
Formula 1 engine builder Brian Hart dies. Thank you for all your passions to Motorsport. I’m proud of having raced with your engine.
— Taki Inoue (@takiinoue) January 6, 2014