CONSTRUCTORS: MARCH ENGINEERING
Name: March Engineering
In 1969 March Engineering was established. Its intention was to become a successful racing car production business to provide chassis for customers to use with Cosworth DFV engines and Hewland gearboxes. The four founders, Max Mosley (M), Alan Rees (AR), Graham Coaker (C) and Robin Herd (H), each had a specific area of expertise: Molsey looked after the commercial side of the business, Herd did the design, Rees managed the March racing teams and Coaker oversaw production. After building a Formula 3 car in 1969, the company went into F1 in 1970, supplying the 701 chassis (designed by Herd and Peter Wright) to Tyrrell (for Jackie Stewart and Johnny Servoz-Gavin) and to Antique Automobiles (for Ronnie Peterson). In addition the factory ran two cars for Jo Siffert and Chris Amon in STP colors with a third car, entered by Andy Granatelli, appearing in STP colors at a variety of races. Stewart gave March its first F1 victory in the non-championship Race of Champions in March and won the Spanish GP a month later. With Amon winning the International Trophy a week after that, March seemed to be bound for the World Championship. The winning was over, however, and there would be only four second places for the rest of the year: two for Amon and two for Stewart.
The company launched into Formula 2 as well with Malcolm Guthrie Racing and other privateers but the competition was intense and there were no wins. Marches also appeared in Formula 3, FF1600 and even CanAm but without any major success. At the end of the first year Coaker departed.
For 1971 Geoff Ferris and Frank Costin came up with the remarkable 711, which featured a circular front wing. Peterson was joined by Alex Soler-Roig while a third Alfa Romeo-engined car was run for Nanni Galli and Andrea de Adamich. Frank Williams ran a pair of cars for Henri Pescarolo and a variety of paying drivers while there were a variety of other customers. There were no wins but four second places took Peterson to runner-up position in the World Championship, although he had only slightly more than half the number of points scored by Jackie Stewart. In Formula 2 Peterson was dominant in the factory March 712M, winning five championship races and taking the European F2 title. There were also customer victories for Dieter Quester (with a BMW engine) and Mike Beuttler (in a Clarke-Morduant Racing Team entry).
The 1972 season was the team's last with STP and was not a great success. Peterson and Niki Lauda drove the factory cars while Frank Williams ran Pescarolo and Carlos Pace and Beuttler appeared in a Clarke-Morduant Racing Team car and Eifelland ran a car for Rolf Stommelen. The cars were modified twice but the only decent result was Peterson's third place at the Nurburgring.
The 1973 season would be a low-point for March in Formula 1. Without STP money the March factory team was struggling, running an unsponsored car for Jean-Pierre Jarier. Beuttler continued in his old car while Lord Hesketh bought a car for James Hunt and David Purley ran his own Lec Refrigeration operation. When Jarier decided to concentrate on F2 Tom Wheatcroft paid for Williamson to drive the factory car. Disaster struck in Holland where Williamson crashed and was killed in a fiery accident. Jarier returned but it was Hunt who showed best in his Harvey Postlethwaite-engineered car.
In Formula 2 March began an exclusive engine deal with BMW and Jarier won the title with ease, while customers the Brambilla Brothers and Ecurie Filipinetti also won races with Vittorio Brambilla and Jacques Coulon the successful drivers.
In 1974 Patrick Depailler and Hans Stuck almost completed a clean-sweep in F2 although March then had to battle against a major French assault in the series and did win the European title again until 1978 with Bruno Giacomelli. Further titles followed with Marc Surer in 1979 and Corrado Fabi in 1982. From 1983 onwards March gave up running a factory team in F2, supplying chassis to a variety of customers but concentrating efforts on the Onyx semi-works team. In Japanese racing March enjoyed three consecutive titles in Formula 2000 at the start of the 1970s and by the mid-1980s was unbeatable with Heroes Racing driver Satoru Nakajima, who won three consecutive Japanese F2 titles.
In Formula Atlantic March chassis won the British title in 1972, 1973 and 1974 with drivers Bill Gubelmann, Colin Vandervell and Jim Crawford. There was parallel success in Formula 3 with Brian Henton winning the British title in 1974, Gunnar Nilsson in 1975, Giacomelli in 1976 and Stephen South in 1976. The final March title in Britain came in 1979 with Chico Serra being run by Ron Dennis's Project 4 team.
The one formula in which March never really made it was Formula 1. In 1974 the factory team ran Stuck in a Jagermeister-sponsored car and Vittorio Brambilla in a Beta-car. In 1975 Brambilla continued, amazing everyone with victory in Austria. The second car was run by various privateers, notably Lella Lombardi. In 1976 Peterson returned and the team found backing from the First National City Bank. Brambilla remained in the second car while an independent two-car team was entered by March Engines in Reading, which fielded Stuck and Arturo Merzario (although he later switched to Wolf Williams). Peterson scored the team's third and last win at Monza that year but he scored only one other point.
The 1977 season was the final one for March in F1 with Ian Scheckter (Rothmans) and Alex Ribiero (Hollywood) failing to achieve much while Frank Williams ran an older car for Patrick Neve (Belle-Vue) and there were various other private entries in the course of the year. At the end of the year Herd and Mosley concluded that there was not much point in continuing in F1. The team's assets were sold to Gunther Schmid of ATS and Mosley left the company to concentrate on FOCA business.
By 1980 the company was struggling with Ralt starting to dominated in F2 and F3. Herd decided to expand into the American market and planned for a Indycar and an IMSA GTP sportscar. The initial planning was carried out by Gordon Coppuck, who had joined from McLaren, but he was then put in charge of F2 designs and new recruit Adrian Newey took over. The March 81C won twice in 1981, five times in 1982 and seven times in 1983 (including the Indianapolis 500). Further Indianapolis 500 wins came in 1984-85-86-87 and the company won CART titles with Al Unser in 1985 and Bobby Rahal in 1986. In IMSA racing the March-Porsche 83G took Al Holbert to the title in 1983 and in 1984 the company won the Daytona 24 Hours with Sarel Van der Merwe, Tony Martin and Graham Duxbury and the IMSA title with Randy Lanier.
In 1981 Herd made a half-hearted effort to return to F1 with a joint venture between March and RAM Automotive. This was based in the old March Engines factory. The car was driven initially by Eliseo Salazar but he moved on and Derek Daly took over although March's involvement was short lived, leaving RAM to hire a young Adrian Reynard to try to sort out the problems.
The new Formula 3000 in 1985 gave March more success with Christian Danner being the first champion in a March chassis. He was followed in 1986 by Ivan Capelli and in 1987 by Stefano Modena but the arrival of Reynard chassis in 1988 did serious damage to March's market.
At the height of the CART success in 1986 Herd floated March on the Stock Exchange in London. He embarked on a new Formula 1 program with Coppuck designing the Ford-engined 871 which was sponsored by Leyton House and driven by Ivan Capelli. In August Newey returned to March and designed the March-Judd 881 for Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin to drive. The car was a success, scoring 21 points.
But March itself was in trouble. It had bought Ralt in an effort to bolster the customer markets but Reynard was taking over, the CART program was fading. Herd stood down as chairman and handed over to industrialist John Cowen who decided that the company must diversify into finance if it was to survive. Production was cut to a supply of Wildcat chassis for the American Racing Series. The company cut back its CART operations to only the factory Porsche and Alfa Romeo teams - although neither was really successful. At the start of 1989, as Cowen was faced with the possibility of putting the company into receivership, Leyton House boss Akira Akagi bought the March F1 and F3000 operations and the windtunnel. At the end of that year Herd left March.
In 1999 Herd joined forces with former Onyx team owner Mike Earle and announced plans for a new March F1 team. They failed to raise the money but in the autumn launched an Indy Racing League team called March Indy International.