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A Rose by Any Other Name…

It is rare these days for a brand new team to enter F1; far more common is it for a fading team to sell out to some hopeful and monied owner, thereby bringing a new name into the sport. If we look at the teams on the grid this year, Sauber are metamorphosing into BMW while four other teams were once known by other names:

Midland F1 were Jordan
Toro Rosso were Minardi
Super Aguri were Arrows

But, hold on, that’s only three – which is the fourth team? Now that’s a long story…

Way back in 1981, a successful Formula 2 team, Toleman, decided to make the step up to F1. They arrived with the TG181 which, frankly, proved to be a dog. But they had a gifted designer working for them, one Rory Byrne, and later he produced the TG183 which was both innovative and competitive. In the hands of Derek Warwick, it scored ten points in 1983.

Toleman TG183

Toleman TG183

The team developed the car for the following year and gave a young Ayrton Senna his first chance in F1. He rewarded them by nearly winning in Monaco (that was the year it rained and the race was stopped with Prost in the lead but Senna closing swiftly) and a third in the British GP.

Thereafter, the team ran into problems and, at the end of 1985, they sold out to Benetton. Rory Byrne stayed with the new outfit and the cars became better and better, eventually winning the driver’s championship with Michael Schumacher in 1994 and both titles the following year. Then Michael left to join Ferrari and, at his insistence, Rory Byrne too was persuaded to head for Maranello a year later.

The Benetton team’s fortunes declined after that and, in 2001, they were bought by Renault. Which brings us up to the present – a long story with a surprising ending. How strange is it to reflect that the car to beat this year could actually be called a Toleman?

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