The misfortune of one is not necessarily the moment another has been waiting for all their life. Unfortunately, such a warning goes unheeded more often than not. Just ask Tony Vlassopoulo and Ken Grob and their team 'Token'.
Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, and, when the plans to move into Formula One seemed a firm go there were only minor signs the effort wouldn't work. After all, Token had become one of the more popular teams for drivers to come and race for in British F5000. However, the lack of finances had killed off the former developers of the RJ02 it would attempt to use, and that should have been the biggest caution sign right there, at least for such a small and precariously-funded privateer team.
In all actuality, the story of Token in Formula One actually has to begin with the story of Rondel team. This team, which was the collaboration of one Ron Dennis and Neil Trundle had also enjoyed a great deal of success in lower formulas of racing. A large part of the team's success in such series as Formula 2 would come down to large sponsorship money the team annually received from the oil company Motul.
The whole thing was going well for Dennis and the Rondel team and he looked forward to a Formula One effort starting in 1974. Dennis would then turn to Ray Jessop to create a design in preparation. However, unexpectedly, the mid-east oil crisis would come to bear on the whole of the world. This meant Motul would understandably look toward its own interests and would leave Dennis without the necessary funding to help Ray Jessop's idea come into being.
Enter Token and its apparent great opportunity to make its Formula One debut. Token was interested in entering Formula One. Rondel had left a car for them to use, unfortunately, it still only existed on paper. However, the businessman and underwriter for Lloyds had at least enough money from its racing experience in the lower formulas to at least get the design off the drawing board and become a reality. And so, work would begin on the RJ02.
Thankfully, the team didn't have to come up with everything in-house. Cosworth was supplying its 3.0-liter DFV engines to privateers and top teams, and so, Token would have a powerful and reliable powerplant at their disposal right away. In addition, the new and inexperienced team would have use of the stalwart Hewland gearbox. So, the team would have a couple of very important components already at their disposal. The rest of the car just needed to be built around them.
The team at Token would set to work building its drawing-board race car. In time, the car would begin to be drawn out from the drawing-board and would soon become a physical reality. It wouldn't be too long before the team would have a full-fledged racecar on its hands. However, when it was finished, it still didn't look finished.
When completed, the car would have a bit of a nostalgic look to it. Featuring a mixture of many different geometric shapes, including squared-off corners and grand sweeping contours, the Token RJ02 would look more like an amalgamation of ideas instead of a continuation of one particular idea.
When completed, the car would come with a drooping sharknose design with a rectangular radiator inlet similar to the styles seen adorning cars throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The box-like design of the car's monocoque continued well back of the nose and featured a couple of large cutout vents to help with the cooling efforts of the radiator and to help prevent instability at the nose due to the air becoming backed up as it tried to make its way through the radiator inlet.
Designed into either side of the chassis were vents for the oil coolers. Then, on top of the box-like monocoque chassis would be a steeply-contoured piece of bodywork helping to provide protection for the driver in the cockpit. This contoured piece of bodywork would be very tight around the driver in the cockpit.
When first unveiled, the rear end of the RJ02 would be void of quite a lot. In fact, the Cosworth engine wouldn't even have an airbox designed for it, let alone have any kind of bodywork covering the sides.
Sporting four-wheel disc brakes and double wishbone suspension on all four wheels, Token had a car capable of going from zero to 60 in around 4 seconds and covering a quarter mile in under 17 seconds. However, early testing would show that the car's handling was more than a little less than desirable.
The RJ02 would make its Formula One debut in the popular non-championship race, the International Trophy race held at Silverstone. When it arrived in Silverstone for the race it would come as barebacked as when it had first been produced. Unfortunately, this would do little to help the car. It actually would have been hard to determine whether anything would have actually helped.
In the event, Tom Pryce would find himself 32nd on the starting grid, dead-last. The pain would only get worse during the race as Pryce would complete less than half the scheduled distance before a gear linkage problem forced him to retire from the race.
Following the put-together performance in the International Trophy race, the car would undergo some updates. Included in these updates would be the additions of two small front wings that would be attached to either side of the nose. The radiator inlet on the nose would be made much more shallow and somewhat concealed by the shark-like nose. Finally, in between the large rear wing and the driver's cockpit, there would be a rather large airbox mounted to the top of the Cosworth engine. Boasting of a large, rounded, airbox inlet, the airbox would sit high on the car and would only seem to give the car a bit more of legitimacy.
Updated and adorned in a green and yellow livery, the Token team, along with Tom Pryce, would head to Nivelles, Belgium for its first Formula One World Championship event. This was it; the first championship Formula One race for Token.
The updates, of which Pryce boasted would drastically help the car at Nivelles, would seem to do just that as Pryce would find himself posting the 20th-fastest lap during qualifying. This put Pryce on the 10th row of the grid ahead of other drivers like Guy Edwards, Carlos Reutemann and Graham Hill.
During the race itself, the car, despite its appearance, ran well in Pryce's hands. Pryce stayed out of trouble for a number of laps and would make well past the halfway mark of the race. Pryce seemed on his way to the checkered flag in the Token. It would have been a great result for the team in its first Formula One World Championship race. Unfortunately, Pryce's race would come to an unfortunate and unforeseen end when he collided with Jody Scheckter on the 66th lap of the race. The damage would be too great for the car to go on. And so, Token would come up just short of completing its first World Championship grand prix.
Following the near miss in Belgium, the team intended to take part in the Monaco Grand Prix. However, the team would be prevented from doing so based upon the relative inexperience of Pryce. Pryce would have his own frustrations and the episode at Monaco would be the motivation Pryce would need to leave the team and go join Shadow. This left the Token seat open for a driving willing and longing for an opportunity. David Purley would take advantage of the opportunity and, given his relative Formula One experience, the team would not be prohibited from any future grand prix.
Being denied the Monaco Grand Prix, Token wouldn't take part in another Formula One championship race until the British Grand Prix held at Brands Hatch. When the car arrived for the British Grand Prix about the only change that would be made to the car would be in the way of its color. Gone would be the green and yellow livery. Instead, the car would be adorned in a red and white livery that would remain with the car throughout the rest of its short Formula One history.
Purley would do his best at the wheel of the Token. His best time in practice would be only three seconds slower than the pole-sitting time set by Niki Lauda. Unfortunately, the time would prove just a little too slow for Purley to be able to make it into the race. Therefore, the long wait Token would endure would only be rewarded with even greater disappointment.
Purley would leave the team after Brands Hatch. The seat would again be open. Ian Ashley would be yet another driver in Token's short first season. Ashley could not have come into the time at a tougher moment in the season, at least as the driver was concerned. The next race on the calendar for the team was the German Grand Prix held at the notorious Nordschleife. Pryce wouldn't be allowed to take part in the tight and twisty Monaco Grand Prix, yet, Ashley would be allowed to face the fierce some track without any such hindrances.
In spite of the daunting task before him, Ashley would actually be impressive at the wheel of the RJ02. At one point in time, late in the race, he would be running around 8th place. Unfortunately, one of the tires on the car would go off leaving Ashley to have to travel about 10 miles just to get a new wheel put on the car. This would prove to be a rather lengthy exercise for the budget-restrained team. As a result, the car would rejoin the circuit but well down in the running order. Still, Ashley would manage to bring the car home in 14th place.
Despite the funds to adequately develop the RJ02, Ashley would still manage to put together some solid performances at the wheel. However, the simple reality of the team's financial position was too obvious to ignore and, by the end of the year, Token was no more.
Although the RJ02 would seemingly end its life still on the drawing board it would come to life under another guise. Amazingly, even after Token's departure from Formula One, the RJ02 would still live on. One year later, the car would reappear but, as it had before, it would do so under yet another guise—Safir. Sources:
Diepraam, Mattijs. 'Introducing Mr. Tom Pryce', (http://8w.forix.com/token.html). 8W: The Stories Behind Motor Racing Facts and Fiction. http://8w.forix.com/token.html. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
'Teams/Token/Profile', (http://www.f1rejects.com/teams/token/profile.html). F1Rejects.com. http://www.f1rejects.com/teams/token/profile.html. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
'Token RJ02 (1974-1974)', (http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/token-rj02/1564642083.htm). Histomobile.com. http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/token-rj02/1564642083.htm. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
'1974 Season', (http://www.manipef1.com/seasons/1974/). ManipeF1. http://www.manipef1.com/seasons/1974/. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Token F1', Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, June 16, 2012, 18:15 UTC, http://fr.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Token_F1&oldid=79845554 Page accessed 28 December 2012 By Jeremy McMullen