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Robin Herd: 1939-2019

Can-Am, Group C, IMSA GTP, F1 and Indycar design genius passes

Robin Herd CBE, F1, Indycar and Can-Am designer has died after a long illness at the age of 80.

Herd joined McLaren in 1965 after a spell working on the Concorde project at the Royal Aircraft Establishment after a call from Bruce McLaren himself:

“I had a great job but I wanted something more challenging,” Herd recalled. “I got a message to phone Bruce. We met that evening, and that was that. McLaren were doing F1, and I was designing racing cars!

“I was only 24, and to be told we’ve got to have this car on the grid at Monaco next year when I hadn’t actually designed anything other than engineering exercises, showed an extraordinary degree of faith or stupidity on his part, and a similar arrogance or stupidity on mine. But I wanted to do it so much I wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way.”

Helped by fellow recruit Gordon Coppuck, Herd designed the first McLaren single-seater, the M2A. featuring a highly unusual chassis made out of Mallite, an aluminium/balsa sandwich that was used in aircraft cabins.

The new car was one of several that Herd designed and/ or oversaw at McLaren until 1968 including both the stunningly successful M6A and M8 Can-Am cars.

After designing the unraced prototype Cosworth F1 car he teamed up with Max Mosley in 1969 to create March Engineering leaving almost 20 years later after success in F1, GroupC and IMSA GTP, and IndyCar

Herd left motorsport in the 1990s, focussing on other business interests, including his chairmanship of Oxford United football team.

Below a short film released by McLaren in 2015 marking his contribution to their heritage.

Picture top, with Bruce McLaren at Goodwood, copyright McLaren