Good housekeeping drives a patriarch

Andrew Baker visits Silverstone to see the cornerstone of a racing family

The pit-lane at Silverstone was a serious place last week. Five teams were fettling their cars for this weekend's race, trying tweaks, making minute adjustments. Drivers frowned, team managers scowled, mechanics groaned. But there was an exception to the general mood of high tension, in the garage at the far end of the pits. Jokes were cracked, backs slapped, and country music played on a stereo system. They weren't quickest, not by a long chalk, but they weren't letting that get them down. Light-heartedness is traditional at Tyrrell, the team that Ken built.

"We have a different attitude from the other teams," Mike Gascoyne, Tyrrell's Deputy Technical Director, said. "We have a friendly atmosphere, a simple management structure and absolutely no politicking. At the end of the day you'll find us in the motor-home having a glass of wine and laughing. But don't mistake all this for a lack of desire to do well: we're always pushing."

The team's philosophy reflects Ken Tyrrell's belief - almost archaic these days - that motor racing should be enjoyable. "He is a very funny man," according to Mika Salo, the team's Finnish No 1 driver. "It's great to have him at every race. I am new in Formula One so it is good to have someone who has so many examples to draw on. But often he is asking me the questions."

Tyrrell, universally known in the paddock as "Uncle Ken", is now 72 and relishes the role of elder statesman. "I keep an eye on them all," he said. "Make sure they don't spend too much money."

Money has all too often been the watchword at Tyrrell in recent years. The world championship years with Jackie Stewart (1969, 1971 and 1973), and the constructors' titles (1971 and 1973) are long ago, the last grand prix victory was more than a decade ago, and for season after season the team's neat little cars have raced with white spaces where sponsors' logos might be. But while once-great motor racing teams such as BRM, Lotus and Brabham have long since folded, Tyrrell has survived, still a privately owned, family team. How?

"With difficulty," the patriarch declared. "But what we have always managed to do, which some others haven't, is stay within budget. If we have had money left over after a good year, we have saved it for leaner times. It's good housekeeping."

Part of that is Tyrrell's role at a grand prix. While the day-to-day running of the team is in the hands of Gascoyne and the technical director Harvey Postlethwaite, and Tyrrell's son Bob searches for sponsors as commercial director, the chairman is everywhere, encouraging the drivers, glad-handing sponsors, exuding bonhomie and keeping an eye on everyone.

He has a great reputation as a talent-spotter, having developed the grand prix careers of Stewart, Jean Alesi and the late, sadly unfulfilled Stefan Bellof. Salo is the latest to benefit from his patronage, and is now much sought-after by other, richer teams.

"It sounds corny," Mike Gascoyne said, "but he is a father figure to us all. During a race weekend he always wants to know what you are doing. He is always poking his nose in, asking questions."

Busybody or not, the elder Tyrrell is a useful man to have around, not least because in not having missed a grand prix in 29 years he has become friendly with the powers-that-be in Formula One, notably the sport's multi- millionaire ringmaster, Bernie Ecclestone.

But Tyrrell finds the idea that he is some kind of power-broker hugely amusing. "When people say that I am well-connected, they just mean that I am old," he said. "Anyway, I don't go as far back with Bernie as everyone thinks. I was talking to him about this the other day. He gave up racing the old 500cc Formula Three cars in 1951, and I started in 1952. It's just as well - I'd probably have crashed into him." What a sad loss that would have been. Tyrrell laughed like a drain. "Which one of us?"

Tyrrell has seen many new teams come in to Formula One. Most have lasted only a short time, victims of inadequate planing or finance. But next year Tyrrell's most successful protege launches a team of his own. How difficult does he think it will be for Stewart Grand Prix to become established?

"When Jackie was racing with me," Tyrrell recalled, "you went to Ford, gave them pounds 7,500, and they gave you an engine that could win the world championship. Things are harder these days. When you have an engine, you have to design and build your car. Then you get the driver you hope is right, the tyres you hope are right, and so on. It is very, very difficult. But Jackie will get there." Will he be ahead of Tyrrell next year? Uncle Ken did not laugh this time. "No," he said. "Not next year . . ."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most