PEOPLE: JOAN VILLADELPRAT

Name: Joan Villadelprat
Nationality: Spain

Formula 1 motor racing is an international business and so it is not really a surprise that Spanish-born Joan Villadelprat has been a top manager in Tyrrell, Benetton and Prost Grand Prix - despite the fact that Spain is not one of the mainstream nations in Grand Prix racing.

Born in Barcelona, Joan Villadelprat was a racing fan from his childhood. His family ran a small trucking business near Barcelona and he spent many happy hours in his youth hanging out with the truck mechanics.

In April 1971 Villadelprat - then 16 - watched the Formula 1 cars around the dramatic sweeps of Montjuich Park, a race won by Jackie Stewart, and decided that he wanted to become a Formula 1 mechanic. He began working in the garage shortly afterwards and then began to dabble in local Spanish racing. It was not until the late 1970s that he decided to make the move to England, which even then was the center of the motor racing industry. He got a job in 1979 with Ron Dennis's Project Four Racing Ltd. in Woking. At the time Dennis was running a pair of ICI-sponsored March-BMWs in F2 for Derek Daly and Stephen South and an F3 March for Chico Serra in the British series.

The following year the F2 and F3 programs continued, but Dennis's aim was to build an F1 car and enter F1 the following year. As things turned out Marlboro - which was backing Project Four in both F2 and F3 - engineered a merger between Project Four and McLaren Racing and McLaren International was founded.

Villadelprat became a F1 McLaren mechanic. He was to stay with the team for the next six seasons as the McLaren-TAG combination won three straight Drivers' titles with Niki Lauda and Alain Prost.

In 1987, however, he was lured to Ferrari to be chief mechanic by former McLaren technical director John Barnard, working with Gerhard Berger, Michele Alboreto and Nigel Mansell. When Barnard quit Ferrari to join Benetton, Villadelprat climbed the F1 ladder by landing a job as team manager of Tyrrell. The 1990 season was a good one for Tyrrell with Jean Alesi making his name in the revolutionary 019 chassis. The following year was a disappointment and Villadelprat moved on to become factory manager at Benetton - working alongside team manager Gordon Message. When Message left the team at the end of 1993 it was Villadelprat who took over as Operations Director, seeing Michael Schumacher through to two World Championship titles in 1994 and 95.

He eventually quit Benetton and later moved to Prost Grand Prix as managing director. After the closure of Prost he disappeared from F1.

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