1981 March 811 Formula 1
In 1969 March Engineering was established by its four founders, Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd, with the intention to become a racing car production business providing chassis for customers competing in all racing categories. March’s launch was unprecedented in its breadth and impact. After building a single Formula Three car in 1969 March announced that they would be introducing customer cars for F1, F2, F3, Formula Ford and Can-Am in 1970, as well as running works F1, F2 and F3 teams.
Their first inroad to F1 was the 701 chassis. That same year, Jackie Stewart gave March its first F1 victory in the non-championship Race of Champions in March and won the Spanish GP the following month. For the 1971 Formula 1 season, March came up with the remarkable 711 featuring an elliptical front wing, known as the “Tea Tray”. Ronnie Peterson finished runner-up in the World Championship without any wins, but five second places. The same year, he wrote history by finishing second in the closest and fastest GP race ever, at Monza. That record still stands today.
For the 1972 Formula One season March fielded three distinct models of car, beginning with the 721, which was a development of the 711, and resulting in the 721G. Peterson, Lauda, Pescarolo, Pace, Beuttler and Purley all drove March F1 cars during this period.
Over the next few years, March refined and developed this chassis design which each year was named accordingly. Success was found with the 751 of 1975, when Vittoria Brambilla took victory at the Austrian GP with his car in the now iconic orange Beta Tools livery. More good results followed in 1976, with the occasional podium and one win by Ronnie Peterson at Monza. However, after building 11 chassis of the 761, for ’77, March only built two cars which featured in just 4 races during the Formula 1 season.
1977 had seen the revolutionary new design idea of ‘Ground Effect’, which used an underbody wing the full length of the sidepods to create huge down force, come in with pioneer Colin Chapman’s Lotus team with their Lotus 78. Over the next few years, most constructors embraced this concept and copied the design in their own cars, with the Williams FW07 furthering the design with great success.
Developed in 1980, the 811 was made as part of a joint venture between John McDonald’s RAM Racing and Robin Herd called March Grand Prix. Although called March, it was a different company to March Engineering of Bicester with little connection other than Robin Herd. To circumvent the usual problems of design and development it was decided to copy the Williams FW07 that RAM had been running previously. The cars were constructed by March Engines at Cowley, a special project’s outfit owned by Herd.
The 811 was a straightforward Cosworth DFV powered machine with Hewland FGA gearbox, made without the exotic materials used by Williams. The second half of 1981 showed promise, with Derek Daly in the now single car team qualifying for many of the races and achieving a best result of 7th in the British Grand Prix.
This car, although known as 811-05, is believed to be chassis number 1, which was driven by Derek Daly at the Argentinian and San Marino Grand Prix in 1981. 811-01 is also understood to have travelled to a number of other Grand Prix as a spare car in the March team. 811-01 was the last of the three early season cars to remain a complete entity and in 1987 was advertised for sale by a Hill Climber in Worthing near Bognor Regis, who had intended to fit the 811 with a Rover V8.
The advert was answered by Don Wood of Source Racing, who bought the mostly complete 811 along with another 811 monocoque, also owned by the Hill Climber. Wood refitted the 811 with a Cosworth DFV engine and prepared it to race in the HSCC Historic Formula 1 championship. Allen Brown of oldracingcars.com has recalled a conversation with Don Wood in October 1990 and remembers seeing the 811 with Wood. Wood then sold the other 811 monocoque to Graham Eccles who rebuilt another car around the tub.
With the 811 seemingly minus a chassis plate, Wood got hold of one that Eccles had – the original plate of 811-05. Wood fitted the 811-05 plate to this 811 and since then that has been the identity put against this car. Recent investigation into the history has unearthed this lineage. Allen Brown mentioned that it would be possible to have an oldracingcars.com Historical Dossier commissioned to further research and outline the history of the 811, something which wouldn’t be offered if there were any doubts on authenticity.
Nick May then bought the 811 from Don Wood in time for the last race of the 2001 Thoroughbred Grand Prix season. During its time with May, the 811 was professionally maintained by James Watt Racing. May went on to race the 811 a further seven times; five in 2002, and two in 2004, before it was offered for sale in early 2006.
The current owner bought the car when it was featured in Coys Auction at the Autosport International in 2011. During the current ownership, the 811 has been raced over many seasons, while being professionally maintained. After a period of running in the Rothmans’ colours of 1982, the 811 was returned to its correct, period black Guinness livery.
At the beginning of 2016, a complete crack test rebuild was undertaken with keen attention to detail. Lyons Racing are no strangers to FIA Historic F1 with Michael Lyons regularly winning races outright. At this point, the engine was rebuilt by Hyspeed Racing Engines and the gearbox by PDS Racing. The set-up has been analysed by Nigel Rees at GSD Race-Dyn and optimised, aiding in the drivability of this distinctive liveried F1.
Following the rebuild, the 811 took part in the Ground Effect F1 demonstration at the 74th Goodwood Members’ Meeting, did a few laps testing at the Silverstone Classic Media Day, and then competed in the FIA Historic Formula 1 Championship rounds at the Spa 6 Hours meeting in September 2016. At Spa, the 811 ran well, finishing both races without issue.
With limited mileage since the full rebuild, the 811 is presented with only around 1.5 hours running time on engine and gearbox, along with another years validity on crack testing and fuel cell, further complimented by current FIA HTPs valid until December 2019 along with the extensive file and in date safety equipment. The 811 represents an affordable and fantastic opportunity to join the ever flourishing FIA Historic Formula 1 Championship grid with a car which can be run imminently without the need for re-certification.