During the 1970 Formula One season, after he became disenchanted with the poor performance of the March Engineering chassis and under pressure from Matra demanding he cease using Ford engines, Ken Tyrrell decided to build his own racing car. Employing ex-Ferguson designer Derek Gardner, who had worked on the Matra MS84 in 1969, the first Tyrrell F1 car was built in complete secrecy at Gardner’s home as the team continued racing with the March chassis in the meantime. Thus, the Tyrrell 001 was born.
The 001 followed the basic outline of Tyrrell’s car the previous year (racing under the name Matra International), the 1969’s Championship winning Matra MS80. Powered by a 2993cc Ford-Cosworth DFV engine and a Hewland FG400 5-speed gearbox, the car was entirely conventional, save a wide, blade-like nose above the front radiator’s air intake.
The 001 made its debut at a non-Championship race, the Gold Cup meeting at Oulton Park, significantly surprising the attending crowd and particularly Tyrrell’s competitors. Jackie Stewart comfortably set the fastest lap in the first heat, but the car failed to get a good result, suffering from many fuel system problems. The 001 would go on to appear in three Grand Prix at the end of the season. At the Canadian GP, Stewart qualified on pole and lead the race easily before a stub axle failed, ending what was nearly the perfect debut. A similar story followed at the US and Mexican GPs. Stewart led in the US, sensationally lapping all but his second-place counterpart before an oil leak ended his race prematurely. In Mexico, Stewart was jostling for the lead with the Ferrari’s of Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni when a dog escaped onto the track. Stewart hit the dog, damaging his suspension and forcing his retirement. Tyrrell built new cars for the 1971 season, 003 for Stewart and 002 for Frenchman François Cevert, Stewart raced the 001 prototype in the opening race in South Africa, where it gained its first and only finish, a second-place podium. Stewart put the car on pole again but, after suffering a poor start, had to fight back in a competitive field in stiflingly hot conditions.
Whilst the 001 proved to be unreliable, the groundwork it laid was fruitful and the 003 stormed to the 1971 Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship titles. 001 remains with the Tyrrell family.
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