1978 Theodore TR1

Money alone won't guarantee World Championships, especially in Formula One. Every title-holder has had the benefit of both finances and talented individuals from the team manager, to the designer, to the crew and to especially the driver. In the mid-1970s, Teddy Yip would try and compensate for a lack of talent with an absurd amount of money. What his money would get him was one of Ron Tauranac's first designs. Named the TR1, it would only go on to prove that money doesn't buy everything.

Teddy Yip, the Macau-based businessman, had a love of speed and of racing. Throughout the 1950s he would take part in a number of races and would be the force behind the Macau Grand Prix.

Though he would prove to be mildly talented as a driver and would only earn one 3rd place finish as his best result in his racing career, as a team owner, he would be much more successful. Before European and Japanese teams became involved in the Macau Grand Prix, Teddy's racing team, known as Theodore Racing, would win the race some six times between 1974 and 1985.

This success in Formula 3 would lead Yip to consider stepping up into the Formula One ranks. He believed his best option, an option that would enable him to get his foot in the Formula One door without putting down a lot of money, would be to partner, or buy, an existing team. This would lead to Yip to partner with Mo Nunn and the Ensign team.

This partnership with Nunn would begin in 1974 and would eventually lead to the team scoring 10 World Championship points during the 1977 Formula One season. Patrick Tambay would help the team enjoy its most successful season in Formula One and would help provide the motivation for Yip to go it alone starting in 1978.

Though Yip was a very successful businessman it cost more than he was willing to spend to build a Formula One team from scratch. Therefore, he would determine to throw around his money and see what he could buy, and then patch together his team from what he was able to secure.

One of the first items Yip needed was a car. However, to get away with spending the least amount of money possible, going with a new and unproven designer would be the best route. Therefore, Yip would approach Ron Tauranac.

Ron Tauranac had been in Formula One for years and had helped Jack Brabham to start his own company. Tauranac would remain with Brabham for a number of years but would determine to strike out on his own. After selling his interest in Brabham to Bernie Ecclestone, Tauranac would establish RALT.

Yip would approach Tauranac to design and build a car the new Theodore Racing team could use in Formula One. Ron had had experience designing cars for Formula 2 and Formula 3. Known as the RT1, the car was versatile but really could not offer the kind of foundation needed to be successful in Formula One.

Therefore, Tauranac would set about penning a new design specifically for Yip's Theodore Racing team. What would result would become known, very simply, as the Theodore TR1.

As with most teams in Formula One in that day and age, Yip would manage to secure the use of Coswoth DFV V8 engines to power Tauranac's new chassis design. Around the engine, Ron would build a car with a mixture of hard, boxy edges and smooth flowing bodywork.

The first iteration of the TR1 would come with a blunt nose and a rectangular-shaped slot for the air to pass over the radiators positioned in a reclining position far up in the nose. Out of either side of the nose were rather large, but stubby single-plane wings.

The front suspension of the car consisted of a double-wishbone arrangement with coil springs. Despite the boxy design of Tauranac's chassis and aluminum moncoque structure, the coil springs could not be hidden within the bodywork and the chassis due to an extraction slot-gap positioned in the same area. This slot-gap was to aid in pulling air through the slot in the nose of the car. This would help the cooling function of the radiator, but it would also help to prevent the air from becoming bottled up as it tried to pass through the slot. Thereby, the presence of the slot gap further aft helped to reduce the drag on the nose of the car.

The nose of the car would be quite wide as it had to accommodate the radiator positioned in the nose. The width of the nose, as it travelled aft, would widen slightly until making its way past the front wheels. The contour of the bodywork then swept outward in classic coke-bottle styling. However, the leading edges of the sidepods would not house the radiators for the engine. Like other designs of the time, the radiators would be positioned along the outside of the sidepod, canted outward slightly to capture the air flowing around the side of the car. The upper bodywork would extend beyond the width and the sidepod and the sidepod itself would have the undertray of the car protrude out further as well. This created a bit of a channel to help trap air and send it directly toward the radiator on either side of the car.

Because of the width of the car, the sweep of the bodywork up toward the cockpit of the car would be not near as dramatic as designs of just a couple of years prior. This gave the driver the sensation of sitting down inside the car a whole lot more instead of sitting on top of a tub, only protected by the fiberglass bodywork attached over the top of the racecar.

The rear of the car would be relatively straight-forward with the large rear wing and the bodywork covering much of the Cosworth engine. One interesting feature at the rear of the car would be the presence of two forward-facing tubes sticking out of the top of the sloping rear bodywork. These two tubes fed cooler air to help cool the rear disc brakes that were almost entirely closed off to any free air, almost like a sportscar.


Powered by a 475hp Cosworth DFV engine and mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox, the Theodore TR1 was capable of acceleration from zero to 60 in around the 4 second range. And completed with four-wheel disc brakes and a young Eddie Cheever as a driver, Yip and the Theodore Racing team believed it was ready to go racing.

The first Formula One race for the Theodore TR1 would be the first round of the 1978 Formula One World Championship, the Grand Prix of Argentina. Competing around the 3.7-mile Buenos Aires track, Cheever would find the TR1 very difficult to drive and slow. As a result, the car would fail to qualify for the race.

Two weeks later, the team would attempt to take part in its first World Championship race at the Brazilian Grand Prix. However, the story would be the same. Cheever would struggle to get the car to handle properly and to put forth any kind of competitive speed around the Rio de Janeiro circuit. As a result, the first two races of the 1978 season would see Theodore Racing fail to qualify for either.

It was clear there were changes needed to the car. And, before heading off to the South African Grand Prix on the 4th of March, the team would set to work trying to get the absolute from the car.

There would be more than one change that would take place during this period, and not just to the car. Eddie Cheever had grown frustrated with the TR1 and would depart the team to drive for Hesketh. This, however, would prove to be a great move for the Theodore Racing team as it enabled Keke Rosberg to come to the team.

In preparation for the South African Grand Prix the team would take a hard look at some of the features of the design. The blunt nose of the car certainly wasn't helping the design, and the slot-gap meant to feed air through the radiator only seemed to make things worse. Therefore, when Keke Rosberg climbed into the TR1/2 chassis at Kyalami, the nose of the car would be revised.

The nose would still have a rather blunt leading edge. However, the radiator would now be fully exposed and slanted further back. This allowed the profile of the nose to change to a much more wedge-shaped design that rose as it travelled back to meet the rest of the monocoque structure.

Some other small changes would enable Rosberg to put the car on the 12th row of the grid and ahead of Eddie Cheever in the Hesketh-Ford Cosworth. The joy, however, would be short-lived as Rosberg would be forced to retire from the race after just 15 laps with clutch failure.

The Theodore TR1/2 chassis would continue to go through evolution before its next race, the non-championship International Trophy race held at Silverstone on the 19th of March. Work continued on the nose of the car. Instead of the blunt nose, the nose would be further refined until it would show up with a much more contoured leading edge.

Now, all throughout this time of the TR1's career it had struggled just to make it into a single race. However, at the BRDC International Trophy race, Rosberg would somehow manage to put the car on the grid in the 11th spot. And, after Rene Arnoux failed to start, Niki Lauda spun off during the warm-up and many of the other main challengers retired within the early laps due to problems, the crowd would be shocked to see Rosberg giving it everything he had in the TR1 to maintain the lead.

Chased by Emerson Fittipaldi in his own Fittipaldi-Cosworth F5A, Rosberg would hang on lap after lap. Fighting with everything he had, Rosberg would fend off Fittipaldi turning the fastest lap of the race and applying tremendous pressure. In the end, Keke would take an improbably win by nearly two seconds over Fittipaldi. All of a sudden the TR1 had gone from worst to first.

Unfortunately, the ball would come to an end at the very next round of the World Championship as Rosberg would fail to qualify for the United States West Grand Prix at Long Beach. In fact, the car would fail to qualify in its next four Formula One events.

Following the Spanish Grand Prix, life for the TR1 would come to an end. Having poured enough money into the Tauranac design, Yip would purchase Wolf WR3 and WR4 chassis. This would lead to the team earning a 10th place result at the German Grand Prix, but it would still end with the team not participating in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.

The TR1 in Formula One had come to a disappointing end after the surprise victory in the International Trophy race. However, the car lives on and can be seen in a number of historic grand prix events.

Sources:
Nyberg, Rainer & Diepraam, Mattijs. 'Teddy Yip's Feast From the East', (http://8w.forix.com/theodore.html). 8W: The Stories Behind Motor Racing Facts and Fiction. http://8w.forix.com/theodore.html. Retrieved 23 January 2013.

'Constructors: Theodore Racing', (http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/con-theod.html). GrandPrix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/con-theod.html. Retrieved 23 January 2013.

'1978 Season', (http://www.manipef1.com/seasons/1978/). ManipeF1. http://www.manipef1.com/seasons/1978/. Retrieved 23 January 2013.

'1978 Non-World Championship Grands Prix', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/nc/1978/1978.html). 1978 Non-World Championship Grands Prix. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/nc/1978/1978.html. Retrieved 23 January 2013.

'1978 World Drivers Championship', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1978/f178.html). 1978 World Drivers Championship. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/1978/f178.html. Retrieved 23 January 2013.

'Theodore: 1978 Theodore TR1', (http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/theodore-tr1/1571698461.htm). Histomobile.com. http://histomobile.com/m5/l2/theodore-tr1/1571698461.htm. Retrieved 23 January 2013.

'Cars/Theodore/TR1', (http://www.racingsportscars.com/type/photo/Theodore/TR1.html?cat=2). Racing Sports Cars. http://www.racingsportscars.com/type/photo/Theodore/TR1.html?cat=2. Retrieved 23 January 2013.

Wikipedia contributors, 'Theodore Racing', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 December 2012, 01:29 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Theodore_Racing&oldid=529374120 accessed 23 January 2013

By Jeremy McMullen



Related Drivers

United States Edward McKay 'Eddie' Cheever, Jr.
Finland Keijo Erik 'Keke' Rosberg

Related Teams

Hong Kong Theodore Racing Hong Kong
United Kingdom Theodore Racing Team

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