Tyrrell Racing was a major player in F1

Jackie Stewart back in the pits after qualifying at Monza on September 6, 1969

Jackie Stewart back in the pits after qualifying at Monza on September 6, 1969 - Credit: Paul Jolly

Team owner Ken Tyrrell was a major and fiercely competitive player in the F1 world during the 1970s with three world championship wins, all with Jackie Stewart as his driver.

The Tyrrell name may be long gone but there is a nice twist to this, as you will discover in a bit. 

As we enter the new F1 season, seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton has rightly received his knighthood. 

His team Mercedes are looking at the probability of another title win this year. Lewis is already the most successful driver of all time.

Mercedes withdrew from F1 in 1955 after a devastating accident at Le Mans when their car catapulted into the grandstand killing 85 spectators.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the man to beat was Enzo Ferrari and his beautiful red cars from Italy.

He disparagingly called the British teams ‘Garagistas’ which referred to the team owners who tended to be garage proprietors who also ran a racing team.

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This was largely true with names such as BRM, Brabham, Lotus and Cooper all run on a shoestring.

There was no serious money then, either from the winnings, nor from sponsors. It was their passion and competitiveness that drove them to one European circuit or another.  

Ken Tyrrell himself had limited success as a driver in the 1950s but his real ability was to spot up and coming talent on the track.

He created Tyrrell Racing alongside the family timber business near Guildford and went racing at weekends.

Among his finds were Martin Brundle, Jody Scheckter and of course, Jackie Stewart.

Interestingly, such was their trust and friendship over the years, that they are the only driver/team paring never to have had a written contract.

Ken was a formidable character and did not suffer fools gladly. He was the most highly regarded team owner of his era and had a presence like no other, very tall with a booming voice!

Jackie Stewart with his wife Helen at Monza

Jackie Stewart with his wife Helen at Monza - Credit: Paul Jolly

I should know, as I was a guest of his at the 1969 Monza GP where Jackie won his first world championship and Tyrrell’s first Constructer’s Championship.

We left the circuit using Ken’s secret way out through the woods with Jackie and I as passengers in the hire car and Ken driving like a man possessed whooping and hollering the whole way, right under the noses of Ferrari and back to the hotel shared by all the teams in those days for an unforgettable party night. 

I attended many a race with the team over the next three decades and Ken joined my wife and I in the BRDC grandstand at Silverstone in 1998.

As the race started, he turned and said, “Do you know Paul, this is the only British GP I have ever watched from a grandstand.” 

We were honoured. You see the team had just been sold to British American Racing (BAR), who were running the show under the Tyrrell name. 

However, Ken disapproved of their decision to install two inexperienced drivers which would go onto jeopardize the final TV rights and travel costs share out which only the top ten teams receive. 

It was a short-sighted decision despite the sponsorship money each fledgling driver brought with them.

Not least it was a disappointing end to the Tyrrell name in its last year. BAR were humiliated with not a single point for 1998 or 1999 and no prize money.

Ken died of pancreatic cancer three years later and BAR underwent a management buyout by Ross Brawn. Jenson Button won the world championship for Brawn GP in 2009.

Enter Mercedes Benz who wanted a way back into F1 and they bought 75 per cent of the team and it was renamed Mercedes GP.

So, the Tyrrell team has ‘morphed’ into seven-times champions Mercedes. Including his three championships and Brawn’s one, that makes eleven world championships. 

Not bad from a woodshed in Surrey!

That will certainly put a huge smile on Ken’s face!