Look back in history Sunday: Ron Tauranac – The ‘T’ in Brabham and Ralt (Part 1)

| Photographer Credit: Terry Marshall

The Tasman Series was a annual competition from 1964 through to its demise in 1975, with races in both New Zealand and Australia. Held in the summer, between January and March, it attracted many top drivers’ of the times down under, with little or no racing happening in the Northern Hemisphere.

The regulations originally specified an engine capacity limit of 2500 cm3 with most chassis, in those early days, being contemporary Formula One from the previous season. It would be fair to say that the success of the 2.5 litre era was due to the Brabhams that competed. They made up half the grids over the first six seasons alongside the semi-works teams from Cooper, Bruce McLaren, Lotus and Ferrari.

Brabham was built by Motor Racing Developments Ltd (MRD), founded in 1960 by Australian driver and future world F1 champion Jack Brabham, along with British-Australian race car engineer and designer Ron Tauranac.

Ronald Sidney Tauranac recently passed away at the age of 95 years-old having made quite an impact in the world of single seater racing, particularly with Brabham and Ralt.

At a young age, Tauranac, and his brother Austin, built a car to compete in hill climbs and called it a Ralt (Ron and Austin Lewis Tauranac). While he continued to build Ralt’s, Ron met and got on well with fellow Australian Jack Brabham.

After Brabham went to the UK, in 1960 he invited Ron to move to England and work at Jack Brabham Motors which eventuated into him designing Brabham single seaters with the designation BT for Brabham Tauranac. By this time the two had set up MRD.

Two key Brabham chassis that made an impact on the early 2.5 litre era of the Tasman Series were the BT4 and BT7A.

MRD’s first F1 car was the BT3 in 1962 which took their first win in the non-championship 1963 Solitude Grand Prix.

Jack Brabham, Brabham BT4 / Climax 2750cc 4cyl, won the Levin International in 1963

The BT4 chassis was specifically built for racing in NZ and Australia over the 1962/63 summer, based on the new F1 BT3. Brabham had previously been campaigning Cooper in NZ/Aust and this was his chance to compete with his own chassis which he fitted the largest available Coventry Climax 2,7 litre FPF engine (this is prior to the start of the 2.5 litre Tasman Series from 1964 on).

Brabham won the 1963 Levin International and the 1963 Australian Grand Prix, building and selling four BT4 chassis to customers.

Jack Brabham finished second at the 1964 Lady Wigram Trophy race in a BT7A

Brabham brought out a BT7A 2.5 litre Climax FPF4 for the 1964 Tasman Series winning the ’64 Australian Grand Prix as well as at key races at Warwick Farm, Lakeside and the NZ Gold Star Race in Renwick, Marlborough later in November 1964.

This chassis went on to be driven by Jim Palmer, Andy Buchanen, Denny Hulme and Paul Bolton before it was written off in the 1967 NZ Gold Star Race at Levin.

The other BT7A chassis was built for and campaigned by Australian driver Frank Matich in the 1963-1965 Tasman Series’ then after by ‘Red’ Dawson.

With Brabham’s retirement from racing in 1970, Tauranac bought and owned the company before he sold it to a young Bernie Ecclestone.

Tauranac was also to retire back to Australia in the early seventies, only to return to England to revive and establish the Ralt marque which was also to have an impact on single seater racing in NZ.

Next week we will look at the Ralt RT1 and RT4 in the NZ Atlantic Series.

Benjamin Carrell

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits talkmotorsport.co.nz. He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!


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