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The Way It Is/ After a forty-year run Cosworth is out of Formula One

by Gordon Kirby
We learned the sad news last week during the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai that Cosworth would not be supplying any engines in Formula One next year. The Spyker team (formerly Midland and before that Jordan) had agreed to go with Ferrari engines next year rather than Cosworth. The lure of a deal with one of F1's six major motor manufacturers was too irresistable to the new Dutch owners, leaving Cosworth's F1 hopes for 2007 high and dry. Cosworth made a remarkable winning F1 debut back in 1967 and has competed in racing's top category every year since, winning no fewer than 176 F1 races, second only to Ferrari.

"Cosworth is completely out of the Formula One business," confirmed company co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven. "It's sad to see our heritage disappear, but the world has changed and we have to move on. That's all there is to it."

Cosworth's commercial director Bernard Ferguson has been the company's point man in F1. Ferguson has worked hard this year to wrap-up a deal for Cosworth to race in F1 next year and believed he was close to an agreement with the Spyker group.

©Gary Gold - All Rights Reserved
© Gary Gold
"It was hugely disappointing when we found that the last team available for us in Formula One next year had made a decision to go elsewhere," Ferguson commented. "Most of the grid acknowledged that our engine was as good as anything out there, probably the best out there. It was as reliable as anything out there and the service we give at the track was second to none, but we don't come with the magic manufacturer's logo on the cam cover and all the assistance that suggests."

Added Kalkhoven: "Formula One is all about the manufacturers now. They're giving their engines away and that makes it really difficult for an independent engine manufacturer to compete. What they end up with basically is a development team, which is excellent for them. Honda has got Super Aguri and Renault will have Red Bull and Ferrari will have Toro Rosso, and they all just end up as development teams."

Ferguson points out that Cosworth cannot compete with the broader business connections of the manufacturers. "Maybe Formula One has moved on," Ferguson ruminated. "Maybe it's not enough anymore to have the best product out there. The world has changed and it's not all about being competitive on the racetrack. More and more of it is about business-to-business relationships and because racing is our business, sometimes we can't compete on that front."

Ferguson holds out faint hope that one of F1's six manufacturers will realize it needs Cosworth. "Maybe one of these manufacturers who didn't do such a fantastic job this year will come along and knock on our door," Ferguson remarked. "Who knows? Our engine is homologated and will be re-homologated for the 19,000 rpm limit before March. We're trying to walk a fine dividing line between mothballing it completely and being able to bring the engine back out. We're trying to retain sufficient people and skills among our workforce to reinvent ourselves in Formula One if the opportunity arises."

Cosworth is second only to Ferrari in both F1 wins and length of time competing in F1. But Cosworth's record in worldwide motorsport is unmatched by any other company, Ferrari included. The company's amazing record of success includes thirteen Formula 1 world championships, sixteen USAC/CART/Champ Car titles, 176 individual F1 wins, no fewer than 267 (and counting) Champ Car victories, as well as ten Indy 500s, and hundreds of other wins in Formula 3000, Formula 2, Formula Atlantic, Formula 3, Formula Junior, sports cars, touring cars, midgets and world rallying. Founded in a tiny north London garage in September, 1958 by Keith Duckworth and Mike Costin, Cosworth has achieved more in its forty-eight years in business than any other high-performance engineering company in the world.

© Gary Gold - All Rights Reserved
© Gary Gold
This exceptional level of performance was established from the outset by founders Duckworth and Costin. Duckworth was a highly-motivated, tart-tongued engineer and engine designer, a true genius and beguiling drinking companion who could hold the entire design of an engine in his head and commit it to paper, piece by piece. One of Duckworth's great prides was to be able to produce a prototype that was as close to complete and functional as possible, a rare feat that Cosworth has been able to come close to achieving time and again.

Costin was an equally brilliant, immensely practical engineer, capable of building pieces and getting things done. He was also an extremely competent racing driver with a record of success in sports cars and small formula cars. Costin was Colin Chapman's right-hand man at the fledgling Lotus team from 1956-'62 and once beat Jim Clark to the pole for a Formula Junior race at Goodwood in 1960. Duckworth also worked for Lotus in 1957 and '58 before forming his own little, engine-building company in a former Lotus workshop in partnership with Costin who continued to earn a living by working for Lotus for a few more years

Cosworth started in business by building racing versions of the Ford Anglia 105E four-cylinder engine for the new Formula Junior category introduced in Europe in 1958. The company's first win was scored by no less a man than Jim Clark, the great champion-to-be who drove a Ford/Cosworth-powered Formula Junior Lotus 18 to victory at Goodwood in March of 1960. Over the next four or five years Cosworth engines dominated Formula Junior, Formula 3 and then Formula 2, instantly becoming the most successful engine builder in these categories.

Cosworth's Formula 1 debut came in spectacular style in June of 1967 when Clark won the Dutch Grand Prix driving a brand new Lotus 49 powered by an equally new Cosworth DFV V8. The legendary DFV and its derivatives went on to dominate Formula 1 over the next fifteen years, winning all but two world championships and 155 races through 1983. Over the following twenty years Cosworth designed and built fourteen more F1 engines, includng a turbo V6, an experimental V-12, more V-8s, a ten-year series of V-10s, and finally, this year's 2.4 liter V-8 to the FIA's latest rules.

In 1976 a turbocharged version of the classic DFV, called the DFX, was developed in California by Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing and the engine soon began winning USAC races. Over the past thirty years through a series of turbo V8s, including the XB, XD and XF engines, Cosworth has become even more successful in Indy and Champ Car racing. In between, Cosworth has built successful engines for many other types of motor racing, done development projects for many of the world's major motor manufacturers, including Ford, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz, and established itself in an unchallegend position as the world's most successful, independent race engine-building and development company.

"Not being in Formula One next year is heart-breaking to a lot of people here and it's having an impact on the number of people we employ," observed commercial director Ferguson. "We're trying desperately hard to find work for everybody inside the company. But if we can't achieve that, if we can't find work inside, we're trying to find jobs outside. But it is a major setback."

The FIA's mandated freeze on F1 engine development takes effect at the end of the season and Cosworth has already decided to lay off quite a few employees because of the effects of the engine freeze. But an additional portion of the workforce, including engineers, fabricators and assemblers, will now lose their jobs by the end of this month.

"It's the full spectrum," Ferguson confirmed. "They're very long-service people as well as young, thrusting people and every step on the way between the two. Because of the F1 engine freeze we were going to lose people anyway. Fifty percent of the engines you build are for design and development activities, so fifty percent of the parts you made, fifty percent of the assembling and testing was all stopping. We had almost finished sorting out the redundancy program resulting from the freeze and now we've been hit with this latest situation. Frankly, it's left everybody here feeling a little numb."

Co-owner Kalkhoven visited Cosworth's headquarters in Northampton in the UK on Wednesday. "He was here to give everyone a heads-up. That was much-appreciated by all," Ferguson said.

Over the last eighteen months Cosworth's managing director Tim Routsis has been spending a lot of time working on new business development. Cosworth is beginning to diversify into aerospace engineering and medical equipment manufacturing and the company plans to continue down this path of wider engineering work.

"Fortunately, we've started on the course of diversification," Ferguson commented. "That's been pretty successful and we've been getting lots of interest from lots of people. But we could have done usefully with another couple of years to get our diversification program going. We're diversifying into areas that have got fairly long lead times and it's left a bit of a hiatus through 2007. Maybe we won't be in Formula One next year, but we'll still be in business and will still be a strong engineering company and we'll retain a core of the finest British engineering and manufacturing.

"We see this as the end of one journey and the start of a new journey. We're going to come back stronger and fitter. We'll be doing different things but the Cosworth name and brand is going to be around for a long time to come. We have the full backing and support of our owners and they will be lending their support in all respects, including financially, to help the diversification program develop and take shape, and for us to move on.

"The major opportunities so far have been in the aerospace business," Ferguson continued. "But I think we're being reinvented generally as a high-integrity, high-value engineering component manufacturer and assembler. Realistically, we are on the outskirts of the medical industry, and we're certainly breaking through in the aerospace industry.

"We've always been perceived by the industries allied to motor racing as someone providing high-value, high-integrity solutions in places where a high level of process is involved like all of our race engine traceability and build systems, and everything that is a benefit to our race program. It isn't just about racing. It's the way our business has been focused. There are an awful lot of things we can do with the skills we've got, and amazingly, we've had tremendous interest since the announcement over the weekend. I think everybody who needs to know has recognized what we've achieved this year and some of them want a piece of it.

"Hopefully, we've bottomed-out on the decline that's been forced on us due to lots of things outside our control and we're on the way back. We're not going to falter. We have a huge portfolio of skills and we're going to use them in different directions."

Ferguson made the point that racing will continue to be an important part of Cosworth's business. "We're not out of motorsport, of course," he remarked. "We'll continue to support the Champ Car World Series and the Atlantic series and we're working hard to secure other opportunities in motorsport. It's not the end of us in motorsport."

The convivial Ferguson looks forward to enjoying next year's fortieth anniversary of Jim Clark's legendary debut win with the DFV at Zandvoort in the Dutch GP on June 4, 1967. "It will be the fortieth anniversary of our first F1 win next year," Ferguson quipped. "But we'll have the weekend off, so we'll be able to celebrate!"

Cosworth's American operation in Torrance, California will not be affected by the end of the company's long history in F1. "It's sad for Cosworth," commented Ian Bisco, vice president of Cosworth Inc. "But the good news is we realized as a company we were too dependent on Formula 1 and we had started to diversify into aerospace and other things, and we've gone into the aftermarket business here in the United States. That's starting to do fairly well and it's helping us here at Cosworth Inc. Obviously, we've got the Champ Car and Atlantic engine programs and we're trying to get into the ALMS as well. So we're in not too bad shape here in the United States."

Cosworth may be out of F1, but the company's XFE turbo V8 Champ Car and four-cylinder Mazda Atlantic engines will continue to see action for many years to come. F1's loss of its last independent engine builder may prove to be a boon for American open-wheel racing. Meanwhile, a combination of changing times and increasing engineering diversity will shape the next chapters in Cosworth's long and celebrated history.

Auto Racing ~ Gordon Kirby
Copyright 2006 ~ All Rights Reserved

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