Brian Hart was that rarest of characters, an independent Formula 1 engine builder who frequently embarrassed the major motor manufacturers despite operating on funds that were smaller than their publicity budgets. A universally respected engineer who was variously known as "Nosher" or "Jam Tart", he grew into his looks early through premature baldness, but because of that he barely seemed to age as the years passed.
As a driver he had been a front-runner who specialised in slipstreaming epics at tracks such as Enna-Pergusa and Hockenheim, where courage and refusal to be intimidated were as important as cool judgement and a strong engine. He won at the former in 1964, the latter in 1969.
That season he founded Brian Hart Ltd, which specialised in preparing Ford's Cosworth-developed FVA engines then created the BDA engine which was the foundation of the Ford's F2 and rally programmes. In 1971 Ronnie Peterson won the European F2 Championship driving a Hart FVA-engined March and the following year Mike Hailwood took the title in John Surtees' BDA-powered contender.
The entrepreneur Ted Toleman underwrote development of Hart's 420R F2 engine for his F2 programme, and in 1980 Brian Henton won the F2 title from team-mate Derek Warwick. Toleman moved up to F1, where turbocharged engines were becoming de rigeur. Hart's "Hart Attack" 415T turbo engine was a jewel, and in 1984 only premature cessation of the sodden Monaco GP prevented victory; the sensational rookie Ayrton Senna had overtaken Alain Prost but lost rightful victory when the race was red-flagged and the result was backdated by a lap.
Senna went on to take thirds in Britain and Portugal. Hart had a tremendous relationship with the young Brazilian, who had the utmost respect for his engineering capability.
Hart later joined forces with Cosworth to develop their 3.5-litre DFZ and DFR engines, and his own 3.5-litre V10 performed superbly for rookie Rubens Barrichello in 1993 and '94. Thereafter his new 3-litre V8 was the proprietary staple for small teams such as Arrows and Minardi. Hart sold out to Arrows owner Tom Walkinshaw in 1997 and retired to Bandol.
His friend Gary Anderson, formerly Jordan's designer, said, "Gut feeling and experience count for a lot in this sport and that's what allowed Brian to achieve what he did without a lot of money." Hart loved his engines and would refuse to work on any returned for service in dirty condition. He liked to work with a small group of trusted aides and went about his business with diligence and modesty. He was always content to let his engineering do the talking, and it spoke volumes.
Brian Roger Hart, motor racing engine builder: born Enfield 7 September 1936; married four times (three daughters, two sons); died Epping 5 January 2014.