British manufacturer and Formula One constructor, March Engineering began operation in 1969 by its four founders, Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd. The name 'March' was chosen by using initials from their first or last names. Each of these individuals brought unique qualities and talents to the team. Herd was the designer, Rees was the team's manager, Coaker oversaw production, and Mosley handled the commercial side of the operation.
The purpose of the company was to provide chassis for customers competing in all racing categories. In 1969 the company built a Formula 3 car. A year later they produced an F1 racer, the 701, which they used for team competition and to supply to privateers. In the non-championship Race of Champions, Jackie Stewart gave March its first F1 victory. He won the Spanish Grand Prix a month later.
In the years to come, the company would become more successful in more classes, except for the F1 program, than any other manufacturer. Their products appeared in Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula Ford 1600, and CanAm.
March Engineering's first Formula 2 racer was the 702. There were six examples of this racer constructed. They were constructed of a space frame chassis and powered by a Cosworth MAE engine matted to a Hewland MK6 gearbox. In 1971, the 712M Formula 2 racer was introduced, of which, twenty examples were constructed. Power came from BMW and Cosworth engines with most being equipped with a Hewland FT200 gearbox. Both engines were excellent choices. The BMW four-cylinder units produced six Formula 2 Championships during the 1970s and was one of the most dominating power plants in any class of racing.
The naming scheme for the Formula 2 racers continued through the years. The 1972 F2 racer was dubbed the 722. For 1973, the teams Formula 2 racer was the 732. For 1974, the racer was the 742, 752 in 1975, and the 762 for 1976.
For 1978 the team focused heavily on their Formula 2 racers for the works BMW team. Bruno Giacomelli and his 782 was a strong contender in the 1978 season, and would eventually go on to win the F2 title.
In the 1979 European Formula 2 season, Marc Surer drove a BMW powered March 792 to the championship. Ground effect on the cars also played a major role. There were 32 examples of the 792 constructed, built atop of a monocoque chassis and most powered by the potent 300 horsepower BMW engine.
March Engineering's involvement with Formula 2 competition continued until around mid-1980's.March 761
The March 761 was raced during the 1976 and 1977 Formula 1 season. It was powered by a Ford/Cosworth DFV engine which brought the car to a one race victory during its racing career. It sat on pole position once and even had one fastest lap. In total, there were six examples created. In comparison to the prior March F1 cars, this had a wider track and a stronger chassis. Vittorio Brambilla
Vittorio Brambilla was born on November 11th of 1937 in Monza. He and his breother, Tino, were affectingly called the 'Monza Gorillas' by their competitors in the early 1970s. Tino was a former motorcycle racer who had secured a position with the MV Agusta factory team. In 1969 he was given an opportunity to drive a F1 Ferrari during a practice session, but that was the extent of his Formula 1 career. His brother, Vittorio, matured into a respectable and talented driver, and was given the opportunity to race in F1. His career in the sport lasted from 1974 through 1980.
Vittorio Brambilla made his F1 racing debut at the South African GP race in a March 741. He raced with March Engineering until the close of 1976, when he left for Team Surtees. In 1979 and 1980 he drove an Alfa Romeo 179. During his racing career, he had one victory, and nine top six victories. His victory was a Osterreichring in 1975 while driving a March 751, where track conditions were les-than-ideal, as rain plagued the entire day. After taking the checqured flag at the race, he spun the car off the track and damaged the nose of the car. He completed the cool-down lap and waved energetically to the crowd; the front of his car was just barely attached.
At the close of the 1976 season, he left Team March for Team Surtess. While there he drove a Surtees TS19 for most of his Surtees career, switching to the updated Surtess TS20 part-way through the 1978 season. His time with Surtees was riddled with mechanical difficulties and accidents. He suffered a concussion in the multi-car pile-up at Monza in 1978; this was the same accident which claimed the life of Ronnie Peterson.
During the 1979 and 1980 season, he drove for the Alfa Romeo Autodelta team. In 1979 he drove at Monza, Montreal, and Watkins Glen. The following year he drove at Zandvoort and Imola. After his short time with Alfa Romeo, he went into retirement.Ronnie Peterson
Ronnie Peterson was born of Feburary 14th of 1944 and raced in the Formula 1 sport from 1970 through 1978. He was the son of Swedish banker and one of the livelier and talented drivers in the F1 sport. Off the track he was mild-mannered, but in the cockpit of an F1 car, his personality seemed to drastically change. He drove the cars hard, fast, and aggressively.
Peterson's career in automotive racing began in Karting and Formula 3 competition, mostly associated with Tecno Racing. In 1970 he was signed to a three year contract with the newly formed March Engineering team. During that first season he drove a March 701 sponsored by the Colin Crabbe Antique Automobiles Racing Team. His talents on the circuit earned him a sport on the works team the following year.
The March 701 was the first March F1 car and was designed by Robin Herd with assistance from Peter Wright. The car's design was very traditional. It incorporated features from other F1 cars that were proven and safe. The only unusual, yet innovative, feature of the car was the side-mounted fuel tanks which provided additional downforce. Power came from a Ford/Cosworth engines.
In 1971, Peterson drove a March 711 for the STP Marching Racing Team. The March 711 was designed by Robin Herd, Geoff Ferris and Frank Costlin and powered by Ford/Cosworth and Alfa Romeo power units. Costin, of Lotus fame, provided assistance with the aerodynamics of the vehicle. The cars were given an innovative design which saw the removal of the frontal air intake in favor of channeling the air over an oval wing in the center of the car. The teams that win in Formula 1 are usually at the fore-front of design, technology, and innovation. Some ideas work, others do not. For March, the 711 design was not as successful as hoped and often suffered from a lack of proper engine cooling. Of the sixty-two starts, the cars failed to finish on 26 occasions. Peterson finished in second place five-times throughout the year. This impressive performance earned him a runner-up position to Jackie Stewart in the World Championship.
For 1972 he drove a March 721, 721X, and 721G, along with teammate Lauda. The 'X' designation signified a Works Car, while the 'G' was for independent drivers. The 721X was designed by Robin Herd whose goal was get the majority of the weight in the center of the vehicle. To help achieve this goal, the Alfa Romeo gearbox was mounted in front of the rear axle which forced the cockpit to move forward. The car never achieved major success and was replaced with the Type G, which had a more conventional weight distribution.
The following season, he switched to the John Player Lotus Team where he drove a Lotus 72D and 72E. The Lotus 72D was designed by Colin Chapman and Maurice Phillippe. It was a very innovative machine and years ahead of the competition in terms of design, aerodynamics, and technology. There was no frontal air-intake which improved wind resistance as there were fewer obstacles to pass-through. This gave the vehicle a higher top speed on the straight-stretches. The front of the car had a wedge-shaped, sloping, flat, nose which created additional downforce and held the car tightly to the track as it went through the corners. Power was from the proven Ford/Cosworth powerplant. The car provided Emerson Fittipaldi with a Championship, and the team three Conctructor's titles. Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Ronnie Peterson each finished in first place on multiple occasions with the Type 72 Lotus.
In 1973, Peterson captured his first F1 victory at the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. Other victories followed at Osterreichring, Monza and Watkins Glen. At the conclusion of the season, he was in third place in the World Championship. In 1974, he piloted the Type 72 Lotus to three more victories, at Monaco, France and Italy.
By now, the Lotus 72 was showing signs of its age, and a replacement was introduced part-way through the 1974 season. The replacement was the Lotus Type 76, which was a dismal failure. It was designed by Chapman and Ralph Bellamy and used in only seven races. Of the ten starts for the cars, it failed to finish on eight occasions. The team reverted back to the tried-and-true, yet aging, Type 72. The Type 72 would remain as a factory team car until the introduction of the Type 77 in 1976. Once again, innovation and ingenuity are necessary to win in Formula 1, but more-often than not, it is met with disaster. The Lotus 77, just like the Type 76, failed to secure the intended success.
The Type 77 was designed by Geoff Aldridge and Martin Ogilvie and featured two unusual design aspects. The first was the very sharp and pointed front nose. The other was the suspension system which was designed to allow for easy on-track adjustment to cater to any track or weather condition. It was comprised of a series of rocker arms instead of the usual coil-spring and wishbone set-up. Drivers Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson were dissatisfied with the results and reported that it was unresponsive and occasionally slow to react. Work continued on fine-tuning the car and its short-comings were slowly resolved. The car favored the fast tracks where high-speeds and straight-stretches allowed the cars potential to shine. The Type 77 was used for only a short time, before it was replaced with the Type 78.
Peterson stayed with Lotus for only one race during the 1976 season. He returned to March Engineering where he was given a March 761. This proved to be a smart move for Peterson, as the March 761 was a solid car with proven technology and aerodynamics, and could win races. It would become the most successful of the March cars with DFV-power. Near the close of the season, Peterson drove the March 761 to an overall victory at Monza. The prior race he had been sitting on pole position but was forced to retire from the race. Of the sixteen races Peterson contested during the 1976 season, he retired prematurely on ten occasions.
For 1977, Peterson was convinced to switch teams again, and drive for Ken Tyrrell's team. He was offered a large sum of money to pilot the innovative, yet odd, Tyrrell P34. Tyrrell was introducing a new design to the sport of Formula 1 and was unsure if it would be a success or a failure. To test their design, they enrolled the services of Peterson who was a proven race winner and an veteran to the Formula 1 sport. The Tyrrell P34 was designed by Derek Gardner and its most striking feature were its six 10-inch wheels. The team was experimenting with the belief that smaller wheels would provide less air resistance. It was used in F1 competition for two seasons, but was never a serious contender. Peterson was often beaten by his teammate, Patrick Depailler.
The team, and many others, were questioning if the prior talents of Peterson had begun to fade. He signed with Lotus for the 1978 season and drove a Type 78 for part of the season, before switching to the Type 79. The Type 78 had first seen action during the 1977 season, and was driven by Mario Andretti to four wins during that year. More wins would have been forthcoming, if accidents and mechanical difficulties had not side-lined the car during the other races. The Type 79 was introduced in 1978, and was a continuation of the Type 78. It was a product of testing and tuning, and designers worked closely with Andretti in fine-tuning the machine. It was a dominate car in the hands of Andretti and Peterson. The cars main features were its wings, which took advantage of aerodynamic principles.
Peterson was able to re-secure his reputation as a capable driver with the help of the Type 78 and Type 79 Lotus cars. He captured victories at South Africa and Austria and often finished right behind Mario Andretti.
The 1978 season as going well for Peterson. He was offered the primary driver position for team McLaren for the following year. His reputation had been reestablished and he was winning races and driving strongly. At Monza, he was involved in a serious accident which did not seem life-threatening at the time. A short time later he slipped into a coma as a bone marrow embolism got into his bloodstream. Within hours, his time on earth had concluded. The tall, Swedish driver's life and career had come to an end.By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2012