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The History of F1 Auto Racing
Part VI: The turbo revolution
March 13, 2005

The development of the turbo engine in the 1980’s did not receive a round of applause from most of the F1 teams.

It was widely known that Renault, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo were the only teams that were producing their own engines supported by the financial and technical abilities of their car factories. The rest of the teams had to depend on others to provide the engine.

During the 1983 Geneva Motor Exhibition, the visitors were astonished to find out that a new engine had been introduced into the world of Formula One. The engine named “TAG” was the brainchild of a Saudi Arabian company based in the French capital of Paris. One of the owners of the company, Saudi national Mansour Ojjeh is a huge fan of motor sports especially Formula One. Ojjeh also led a Saudi consortium headed by Saudi Arabian Airlines to sponsor the Williams team in the 1980’s.

Ojjeh wanted to have a role within the Formula One community. He requested from the German company – Porsche – to design a car engine that would bear his company’s name. The engine was born and during the Geneva Motor Exhibition, Ojjeh announced that the engine will be used by the McLaren team in the near future. The TAG engine was leading the path for a substitute for the Cosworth engines. The Cosworth engine was a “life saver” for the smaller teams that had a miniscule budget.

The TAG engine was first used by McLaren in 1983. This led to the increase of the number of teams that used turbo charged engines to 18 cars. The number increased to 22 in 1984 after Renault joined in along with Arrows that persuaded BMW to supply engines. Brabham driver, Nelson Piquet, during that year won the driver’s title for the second time in his career.

The turbo engine had four victories, three of which were clinched by Piquet and one by Italian driver Ricardo Patrese. The same number of victories was recorded by the Renault team – the pioneers of the turbo engine.

The Renault engine was in fact of disappointment for the French team that had high hopes to win the driver’s title. However this dream started to fade, after Prost faced a driving 'struggle' during the Dutch Grand Prix, three rounds before the finals of the championship. The fiasco led the way for Piquet clinching the title away from Prost with a difference of two points.

Prost and Austrian Niki Lauda in the 1984 season fought for wins grabbing 12 races out of 16 – seven wins for Prost and five for Lauda. However Lauda won his third title during the 1984 season and grabbed it away from Prost with a difference of 0.5 points (72 points versus 71.5 points). However Prost continued to fight harder and in 1985 clinched the title with McLaren using the TAG engine. He did the same the following year.

The downfall of the TAG engine started off when the Japanese car manufacturer Honda signaled the start of its powerful engine that was used to power the Williams team. That led Piquet to win his third title in 1987. During the end of 1987, Honda took the decision to move from Williams to McLaren. In 1988, McLaren inked its “most remarkable” accomplishment, taking the win in 15 out of 16 races and Brazilian Ayrton Senna won the driver’s title.

In 1989, the FIA decided to ban the turbocharged engines closing a chapter for one of the most strongest and wildest eras in the history of Formula One.

Press release
Bahrain International Circuit

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