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Tribute to Old Monmothian who designed McLaren’s first Formula One car

June 13th, 2019
Robin Herd during the British GP at Silverstone in July 1992.

An Old Monmothian, who had a successful career in motorsport and a spell as chairman at Oxford United Football Club, has died at the age of 80.

Robin Herd was a skilled engineer and designed McLaren’s first ever Formula One car.

A pupil at Monmouth School for Boys between 1949 and 1958, he took A levels in Chemistry, Maths, Higher Maths and Physics and was head of Hereford House.

Mr Herd studied at St Peter’s College in Oxford, graduating with a double first in Physics and Engineering, having turned down an offer to play cricket for Worcestershire.

He joined the Royal Aircraft Establishment in 1961 to work on the Concorde project and was recruited by Bruce McLaren in 1965, having been alerted to an engineering vacancy with the constructor by former school friend and racing driver Alan Rees.

Mr Herd stayed with McLaren until 1968 — during which time he designed their M4B, M5A and M7 Formula One cars, as well as the successful M6A Can-Am car before moving to Cosworth where he carried out work for Frank Williams in 1969 to modify one of his cars.

Mr Herd came close to joining forces with Bernie Ecclestone and Jochen Rindt to form an F1 team, but instead he hooked up with fellow Oxford graduate Max Mosley, Alan Rees and Graham Coaker to co-found Bicester-based March Engineering in 1969.

The team completed 207 Formula One Grand Prix races between 1970 and 1992, winning three races and achieving four pole positions.

The team enjoyed a great deal of success in Formula Two and, in the 1980s, they made a foray into Indycars, with March cars winning the Indianapolis 500 for five successive years from 1983 to 1987.

Mr Herd sold March Racing to the Japanese property company Leyton House in 1989 and created Robin Herd Ltd.

Mr Herd’s last active involvement in motorsport was with an Indy Racing League team project in the late 1990s.

Instead Mr Herd focused with considerable success on his other business interests.

He was chairman of Oxford United Football Club for three years and established a company investigating natural ways of producing energy.

Sadly, Mr Herd, who grew up in Ross-on-Wye, died last week after a long illness.

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