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Cosworth’s final Formula One chapter? 19 Oct 2006

Jim Clark (GBR) Lotus Ford 49 talks to engine designer Keith Duckworth (GBR). Clark would give the brand new Ford Cosworth DFV (Double Four Valve) engine a victorious debut. Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort, Holland. 4 June 1967. World ©  Phipps/Sutton. The Ford Cosworth DFV (Double Four Valve) engine that made it's debut in the Lotus 49. Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort, Holland. 4 June 1967. World ©  Phipps/Sutton. Jackie Stewart (GBR) demonstrated the ability of the new Tyrrell 005 with a comfortable race victory. It was the fiftieth GP win for the Ford Cosworth DFV engine. Canadian Grand Prix, Mosport Park, 24 September 1972. World © Phipps/Sutton. Graham Hill(GBR), Lotus 49, left, with Keith Duckworth, designer of the Cosworth DFV engine. Dutch GP, Zandvoort, Holland, 4 June 1967. World ©  Phipps/Sutton. Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 12 March 2006

This weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix looks set to be engine supplier Cosworth’s last Formula One appearance - at least for the foreseeable future. Both Williams and Toro Rosso have called time on their Cosworth contracts for next season, and the company’s last chance of a place on the 2007 grid effectively disappeared when Spyker MF1 sealed their Ferrari deal. Nevertheless, after an uninterrupted 38-year run of Formula One involvement, the legendary engine builders will depart with plenty of cherished memories, as well as one very special record…

Originally the brainchild of British engineers Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth, Cosworth was set-up in a small London workshop in 1958. The pair, convinced their future paths lay in designing engines for racing cars, began working on the development of a Ford 105E unit almost immediately. Success followed and in 1960, Jim Clark drove to victory in a Cosworth-powered Lotus 18 in a Formula Junior race held at Goodwood.

The win would be the first of many for the engine builders and as their reputation grew, the company expanded and relocated to Northampton in the mid-sixties. In 1966, Duckworth signed a contract with Ford to develop a new three-litre Formula One engine. The agreement spawned the legendary DFV (Double Four Valve) engine and marked the beginning of a relationship which would last for almost four decades.

Duckworth’s DFV was a quantum leap forward in terms of engine design and remains the most successful in the history of Formula One racing. The first unit was delivered to Lotus in time for the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix and fittingly it was Jim Clark who drove it to a historic victory on its maiden outing.

The same engine, in different guises, would go on to win a total of 155 Grands Prix over the next 15 years. Emerson Fittipaldi, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt and Nelson Piquet were just some of the names who took titles in the 1970s driving Cosworth-powered cars. Success wasn’t solely reserved for Formula One racing. In the seventies, the DFX version dominated the Indy/Cart series in the US, clinching a total of 10 championships and 151 wins during a 14-year reign.

Cosworth had supplanted the DFV with a new engine, the HB, by the late 1980s. This new design won 11 races between 1989 and 1993, before being replaced by the Zetec V8 F1, which powered Michael Schumacher to his first title for Benetton in 1994. When Benetton switched to Renault power the following year, Cosworth began supplying the Ford-supported Sauber team.

Another switch in 1996 saw Cosworth designing a new V10 engine for the Stewart Grand Prix team, run by three-time world champion Jackie Stewart. A three-year partnership followed, with steady progress resulting in Johnny Herbert’s victory in the 1999 European Grand Prix. In 2000, Ford bought Stewart, and Cosworth - by then already owned by the car manufacturer - continued to supply engines to the rechristened Jaguar team, alongside several other customer teams.

Ford departed Formula One racing at the end of 2004 and Cosworth once more came under new ownership. In 2005, both Red Bull and Minardi were powered by the company’s V10 engines, whilst this year Cosworth have supplied Williams with a newly-designed V8 and provided Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso with the older, rev-limited V10. The V8 proved an immediate hit, with Nico Rosberg scoring a fastest lap in Bahrain, and the engine has received much praise - particularly for its ability to regularly rev to the magical 20,000 rpm mark.

However, it wasn’t enough to stop an inevitable Williams-Toyota deal for 2007 onwards being signed in July. And news that Ferrari will be allowed to supply two customer teams not just next season, but also when new rules come in for 2008, means Cosworth’s chances of a comeback do not look particularly bright. The company will continue to shine in other motorsport series - including various historic Grand Prix formulae with the DFV - but in Formula One racing, for now at least, Cosworth have seemingly reached the end of the road.

For more pictures of Cosworth's Formula One past, click here.