Designers – Rory Byrne

Colin Chapman Formula1 Peer Car Designers Series

Rory Byrne: Evolution not Revolution


The A&R considers that Colin Chapman’s design career in FI embraced two periods:-

  1. From the inception of Lotus cars to the late 1960’s early 1970’s
  2. The mature period covering the wings/ ground effect and turbo era until his sad and early death in 1982

We don’t know what he might have achieved had he lived beyond this.

The FI designs of Colin Chapman were considerable not least because of his relatively low budget .He did not have the resources of a multinational to cross-subsidize its racing programme against publicity and a means of developing its engineers.

In order to evaluate Colin Chapman better the A&R is committing to a series of benchmarking exercises analyzing the design achievements of his peers.

These design studies are a natural complement to our series on Design Heroes that gives priority to Industrial and Product Designers.

Subscribers might like to see the directly relevant and integrated A&R pieces that complement and help structure this article.

Subscribers may find it informative to study our peer’s series as there are significant overlaps of designers and teams.

Equally our individual study of types might assist tracing evolution, development and background context to Chapman and Lotus performance.

Rory Byrne was almost a generation younger than Chapman and this makes benchmark more complex.

Despite this we consider it valuable to match Chapman in an attempt to forensically evaluate his achievement.

The Designers

We offer the list below and would be interested to hear from our subscribers if they would like to make other recommendation for inclusion and also if they have priority/ preference in our selection.

We appreciate that some of these designers were colleagues of Colin Chapman at Lotus at some point in their careers but went onto achieve success in their own right.

We list some of these in the appendix below and this offers an opportunity for further sub-benchmarking and indeed a means of prism to see how Chapman managed designers.

As a prompt subscribers might like to use the list to pencil in those cars they associate with the designers.

Designer Marque Model

Len Bailey
Dave Baldwin
Ralph Ballamy
John Barnard
Michel Beaujos
Nigel Bennett
Eric Broadley
Gustav Brunner
Rory Bryne
Paul Carillo
Colin Chapman
Carlo Chiti
John Clark
Peter Connew
Gordon Coppuck
Andre de Cortanze
Frank Dernie
Richard Divila
Gerrard Ducarouge
Geoffrey Ferns
Mauro Forghieri
Derek Gardner
John Gentry
Chuck Graemiger
Herve Guilpin
Patrick Head
Robin Herd
Jean-Pierre Jabouille
Ray Jessop
Georges Martin
Tico Martini
Alan McCall
Arturio Merzario
Kenij Mimura
Robert Morin
Vic Morris
Gordon Murray
Morris Nunn
Martin Ogilivie
Masa Ono
Enzo Osella
Luciano Pederzani
Maurice Phillippe
Mike Pilbeam
Harvey Postlethwaite
Adrian Reynard
Franco Rochi
Ken Sears
Tony Southgate
Giorgio Stirano
Ray Stokoe
Nigel Stroud
John Surtees
Andy Swallman
Ron Tauranac
Len Terry
Michel Tetu
Antonio Tomaini
Martin Walter
Tim Wardrop
Dave Wass
Peter Wright
Edy Wyss

Each of the assessments will adopt a set format for a degree of uniformity and fairer evaluation. The assessment criteria as appropriate; follows [but again we are happy to take suggestions from our subscribers]:-

    • Brief biography and design methodology
    • FI car design
    • Sport / sports racing car design
    • Road car design
    • Consultancy and any other product design
    • Legacy or design influence

The editors are thinking of starting with Gordon Murray but will be influenced by our regular subscribers. The editors have been influenced by “The Art of the Formula 1 Car” but aesthetics alone will not influence inclusion.

From the net:-

“Rory Byrne (born 10 January 1944, Pretoria, South Africa) is a South African engineer and car designer, most famous for being the chief designer at the Benetton and Scuderia Ferrari Formula One teams.

Since joining Ferrari in 1997 Byrne designed cars have won over seventy Grands Prix, seven constructors’ titles and six driver’s titles. This outstanding record of success made Byrne the most successful Formula One designer of the last decade, narrowly eclipsing rival Adrian Newey, until the latter retook his lead with his successes in 2010 and 2011 with Red Bull.


Rory Byrne studied and qualified in the field of industrial chemistry. But an interest in model glider aerodynamics, and later a successful business in car parts combined to steer him towards motor sport.

A keen work ethic and great enthusiasm led to him working through the single seater ranks with Royale and then eventually to becoming part of the successful Toleman Formula Two team which made the jump into the top flight of motor racing in 1981.

Early Career

Byrne became interested in motor racing at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa, firstly as a competitor and later the technical aspects of the sport. After graduating in 1965 Byrne began working as a chemist but retained his fascination for racing until by the late 1960s he, with three friends Dave Collier, Ronny and Dougie Bennett, set up a company importing performance car parts called Auto Drag and Speed Den situated in Jules Street, Malvern, Johannesburg and later Voortrekker Road in Alberton. It was in this period that he first began to design racing cars, putting to use his mathematical knowledge even though he lacked formal engineering training. His first car, a Formula Ford racer, was competitive and finished well in the 1972 championship.


Ferrari designer Rory Byrne explains the philosophy of the F2004

Although the fundamental design philosophy of the F2004 is the same as its predecessors, in terms of optimising aerodynamic efficiency, lowering of centre of gravity height and maximising performance available from the Bridgestone tyres and 053 engine, every area of the car has been revised in order to make a further step forward on performance, so almost every component has been redesigned.

Figure 1 .image from the net .Designs by Rory Byrne

The Ferrari dominant decade of the new millennium; the Dream Team

Powerful forces collacesed under a fortunate concentration at Ferrari.

This witnessed the arrival of some of the finest brains of the modern era.

The key personnel included:-

  • Montezemolo
  • Jean Toda
  • John Barnard
  • Michael Schumacher
  • Ross Brawn
  • Rory Byrne

Design Methodology

“Formula 1’s “dream team” in conjunction with an extremely close working relationship with tyre supplier Bridgestone, and aided by a state of the art wind tunnel and unlimited testing, honed their craft to perfection. Successive championships followed in 2001, 02, 03 and 04, encompassing the particularly impressive 2004 season, which resulted in 15 victories from 18 races, including a record 13 for Schumacher.

Fundamental to the success was Byrne’s oft-repeated mantra of ‘evolution, not revolution’, seeking to slowly hone and refine a car’s potential, rather than wasting time searching for a “magic bullet” in the increasingly unlikely event that it might create a vast step gain.

Never was this mantra more obvious than during this period with Ferrari when, from an already strong base, Byrne and his team sought to systematically improve every area of the car, component by painstaking component. He set the benchmark for engineering detail, whether that was by reducing sidepod size millimetre by millimetre, or through the use of electronic differentials, periscopic exhaust outlets and all-titanium gearboxes.

Unlike most contemporary designers, Byrne could be decidedly old school in his approach, preferring the drawing board over the near-ubiquitous computer aided design (a trait shared by Adrian Newey), but his achievements were underpinned by a supremely hard working ethic.

Having sought to reach the pinnacle of the sport, and achieved it in such emphatic style, Byrne began the process of stepping back from the end of the 2004 season, until his retirement in 2009. Even after that, he remains associated with the team in a consultancy capacity.”

Gordon Murray on the Ferrari F1-2000

“It was after this car, for me, F1 cars started getting ugly.

Even the barge boards on this are relatively pretty.

Relatively- I don’t like barge boards although I can see why they’re absolutely necessary “

Cars designed by Rory Byrne

  • Formula Ford
  • Royale RP19 [Super Vee[, RP22 [FF2000], RP23 [F3], RP25 [FF2000]
  • Toleman& Benetton

Ralt RT2, Tolerant TG280 [F2] immensely successful, TG181 [F1], TG183 [F1], TG184 [F1], TG185 [F1]

From wiki:

  • Toleman TG184
    Toleman TG184B
Category Formula One
Constructor Toleman
Designer(s) Rory Byrne
Pat Symonds
Predecessor TG183B
Successor TG185
Technical specifications[1]
Chassis Carbon fibre monocoque
Suspension (front) double wishbones, pull-rod actuated coil springs over dampers
Suspension (rear) double wishbones, push-rod actuated coil springs over dampers
Axle track Front: 1,765 mm (69.5 in)
Rear: 1,676 mm (66.0 in)
Wheelbase 2,800 mm (110 in)
Engine Hart 415T, 1,459 cc (89.0 cu in), Straight 4, turbo, mid-engine, longitudinally mounted
Transmission Hewland 5-speed manual
Fuel Agip
Tyres Michelin
Competition history
Notable entrants Toleman Group Motorsport
Notable drivers 19. BrazilAyrton Senna
20. VenezuelaJohnny Cecotto
19. / 20. SwedenStefan Johansson
20. ItalyPierluigi Martini
Debut 1984 French Grand Prix
Races Wins Poles F.Laps
12 0 0 1
Constructors’ Championships 0
Drivers’ Championships 0

The Toleman TG184 is a Formula One racing car designed by Rory Byrne and Pat Symonds and was used by Toleman Motorsport during the majority 1984 Formula One season. It was first raced at the French Grand Prix at Dijon. Like its predecessor, the TG183B, the TG184 was powered by the 4 cylinder turbocharged Hart 415T engine which produced approximately 600 bhp (447 kW; 608 PS) in 1984.

The car’s potential was evident early on with a second place in only its second grand prix scored by then rookie driver Ayrton Senna in the rain affected Monaco Grand Prix. Senna, who started 13th, sliced through the field with precision until he caught and passed race leader Alain Prost (McLarenTAG) just before the start/finish line on lap 32 as Clerk of Course Jacky Ickx showed the red flag to stop the race due to adverse conditions. However, the rules stated that positions must be taken from the lap prior to the flag being shown. This saw Prost win and Senna finish second with only half points given due to the race not going past 50% of the scheduled distance. It was widely perceived that Ickx had denied Senna, Toleman, and engine supplier Hart their first Grand Prix win, although the team later revealed that Senna’s TG184 had suffered suspension damage which they estimated would only have lasted another 3 or 4 laps in any case. [citation needed]

Underlying his future as a World Champion, more podiums came for Senna during the 1984 season with 3rd placings at both the British Grand Prix and the season ending Portuguese Grand Prix where Senna also placed 3rd in qualifying, the highest for the car. The podium finish at Monaco was the first for what is now Renault Sport F1.


“Warwick’s sliver of success with the Toleman had been a long time coming throwing a shaft of light on what was a dogged private effort at competing in the turbo era.

As long ago as 1980, F2 engine specialist Brian Hart had toyed with a turbocharged 4 cylinder engine…………….

Tolerant was keen to go GP racing and took the ambitious step of financing the Hart turbo rather than taking the soft, short term option of a Cosworth DFV.

Ahead lay more than two years of frustration, improvisation ,heart ache and adoption as this tiny firm attempted to take on the kings of the turbo playground………….”

  • Reynard
  • Ferrari

Technologies adopted by Rory Byrne

  • Electronic driver aids
  • Semi-automatic gear box
  • Active suspension
  • Rear wheel steering
  • Under car airflow

Rory Byrne also extracted benefits from Bridgestone tyres.

Rory Byrne and Ferrari hyper car

The editors have not seen exact details but it’s instructive to link Rory Byrne with Chapman consultancy and the recent Lotus super car.

Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • Outline the careers of Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn, what did they achieve collectively and independently?
  • What was the management style at Ferrari during their dominant decade outlined above? How and why did it contribute to winning strategy?
  • Discuss and evaluate the contributions of the following within F1 history & development:-
  • Driver
  • Chassis/handling
  • Engine
  • Conduct of race strategy
  • Tyres
  • Aerodynamic
  • Compare and Contrast Newey & Byrne as designers of the modern era

Exhibitions, Education, Economics and Entertainment

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

In this instance we suggest the following exhibition titles might be appropriate:-

  • Rory Byrne: No Magic Bullet
  • Rory Byrne: Evolution not Revolution
  • Rory Byrne: Form, function ,philosophy at Ferrari
  • Rory Byrne & Reynard the Fox
  • Rory Byrne & the United colours of Benetton
  • Rory Byrne: from Formula Ford to Ferrari
  • Rory Byrne: Design Tsar at the Royale Household


The editors consider they might not be able to give Rory Byrne full credit as we are not totally familiar with the technology of the turbo era and beyond.

Bamsey provides insights into the complexity.

Rory Byrne is considered the quiet South African.

He has been the principle architect, a skilled and creative designer of various F1 teams notably Ferrari.

A comparison with Chapman becomes difficult in a changed environment.

Our generalized observations are:-

  • Rory Byrne was almost a generation younger than Chapman. Their careers only really overlapped briefly in the 1970’s and early 80’s and Chapman’s death
  • Rory’s entry into F1 was less practical and experimental than Chapman
  • Rory upheld an evolution over revolution approach which possibly better fitted the era and Ferrari team financing as opposed to Lotus. This said Rory was capable of innovations
  • The difference in era is almost immeasurable in terms of technology, materials, finances, aerodynamics and regulations. This era possibly deliberately with a commercial dimension/intent placed emphasis on incremental gains, and possibly increasingly expensively computerisation and wind tunnel testing
  • Credit must not be denied Rory as the era made new demands of discipline
  • Rory enjoyed perhaps the occasional good fête when stars collide and within Ferrari there coalesced an enormous resource of talent
  • Rory Byrne was a hired designer
  • He has been a consultant on Ferrari proposed hyper car

Avoiding repetition we invite subscribers to examine our complementary articles where we paint a picture of Chapman and Lotus.

Both Rory Byrne and Colin Chapman enjoyed the services of two remarkable drivers namely. Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher.

The editors struggle to critically evaluate Rory Byrne mainly because we consider we are not comparing like with like, the era’s being too different but still acknowledge the achievement and consistency of Rory Byrne and that both men may have possessed equally powerful intellects which were focused on differing focus and objectives.

To round up Rory Byrne was asked:-

How do you evaluate success?
That’s simple. You just need to ask yourself, “Have I achieved my goals in life?” My goal was always to design a car that won a championship. After the tremendous run at Ferrari I felt I’d achieved my goals. Since then my goals have shifted. It’s much more about time with friends and family, having a healthy lifestyle. With golf, for example, it’s no longer about winning but more about enjoying the game.”

A modest assessment from an individual who has delivered so much.

Appendix: 1

Colin Chapman’s Achievement
F1 Constructors & Drivers Championship
Le Mans
British Club level
Single seat formula below F1
Iconic Road cars
Technical /engineering innovations
Development of human talent
Facilitation & sponsorship
Aesthetic appreciation
Product Design
Design Methodology
Legacy, continuity, heritage
Impact on popular culture
Contribution to British economy
Significant Awards
Documentation, books & articles etc.


See bibliographies in previous Chapman design peers series

The Turbo Years.Henry.Crowood.1990

ISBN: 1852233974

The 1000bhp GP Cars.Bamsey.Haynes.1988

ISBN: 0854296174

The Anatomy & Development of the F1 Racing Car since 1975.Incandela.Book Club.1982.


Please note the editors of the A&R attempt to give the broadest spectrum of references but not all are available for consultation in an article. However by noting their existence it may assist students in their research.

*Items in italics non A&R library books.