PEOPLE: NIGEL BENNETT
Name: Nigel Bennett
Nationality: Great Britain
From Derby - the home of Rolls Royce Motor Cars - Bennett first became involved in motor racing as an engineer with the European Division of Firestone tires in 1968 - working mainly with Team Lotus. The US tyremaker pulled out of Grand Prix racing at the end of the 1974 season and Bennett went to Hesketh for a short period before joining Team Lotus in 1975. He was chief race engineer with the team until 1979 when he and Ralph Bellamy were asked by Mo Nunn of Team Ensign to design a car for him. The team had found backing from Unipart and would hire Clay Regazzoni as the driver. The Ensign N180 was quite competitive but Regazzoni crashed at Long Beach and suffered serious back injuries. Bennett stayed on with the team until it was merged with Theodore at the end of 1982. Bennett designed the last F1 Theodore but the team closed down at the end of 1983. He designed an Indycar for Theodore but this project was short-lived and in October 1983 he joined Lola Cars as an Indycar designer. His T800, T900 designs were both successful with Mario Andretti, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser Jr all winning races in the cars with titles for Andretti in 1984 title and Unser in 1985.
In mid-1987 Bennett left Lola aiming to set up his own CART team but in the end he was hired by Penske Racing to design a car for 1988. The result was the Penske-Chevrolet PC17 with which Rick Mears won the 1988 Indianapolis 500 and Danny Sullivan gave Penske the CART title. This was followed by more success with the PC18 - with which Emerson Fittipaldi won the Indy 500 and the title. In total Bennett's Penske's would win 53 races and five CART titles.
Lack of success in the late 1990s resulted in Bennett moving into a consultancy role and at the start of 1999 he quit the team and joined G Force Precision Engineering as a technical consultant, working on the G Force Indy Racing League program.