Obituary: Postlethwaite the great innovator dies aged 55

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HARVEY POSTLETHWAITE, a leading figure in Formula One race car design and engineering, has died at the age of 55, the Honda team announced yesterday. Postlethwaite died suddenly of a heart attack on Tuesday night in Barcelona, Spain, where he was overseeing a test session on Honda's new car.

The news stunned the motor racing community, where Postlethwaite was a popular figure. Eddie Jordan, owner of the Jordan Grand Prix team, said: "The news of Harvey's death has come as a great shock. We had been talking only recently about new projects he was working on and was very excited about.

"Harvey was an academic and a true gentleman. He was always so committed and enthusiastic. This is a sad blow to Formula One," Jordan said.

Postlethwaite started his F1 career in 1971 with March Engineering and designed the car which James Hunt drove to victory for the Hesketh team in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort in 1975. He was the designer for the Wolf team which won its debut grand prix in 1977 and then finished as runner-up in the constructors' championship.

Postlethwaite joined Ferrari in 1981 and designed a chassis for the team's new turbocharged engine. Postlethwaite-designed Ferraris won the constructors' title in 1982 and 1983.

He returned to Britain in 1988 as technical director at Tyrrell. His raised-nose car design of 1990 revolutionised F1 aerodynamics and is now a standard of single-seater design.

Postlethwaite briefly rejoined Ferrari as technical director in 1991, then moved to the Swiss Sauber team before returning to Tyrrell in 1994. He became joint managing director of Tyrrell before the team's sale in 1997.

Postlethwaite joined Honda as technical director of its F1 project, before the team's expected grand prix return next season, and was on the F1 technical commission's safety committee.

He is survived by his wife, Cherry, and two children, Ben and Amey.