History - The March Story

In 1969 March Engineering was established with the intention to become a racing car production business providing chassis for customers competing in all racing categories.  Each of the four founders chipped in 2,500 to form a company that was to become, with the exception of Formula One, more successful in more classes than any other manufacturer ever.

The four founders, Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd, each had a specific area of expertise.  While Max Mosley looked after the commercial side of the business, Robin Herd did the design, Alan Rees managed the March racing teams and Graham Coaker oversaw the production in their Bicester factory. 

March changed and grew over time and had divisions known as March Engineering, March Racing, March Wind Tunnels, March Engineering Projects, Comtec, March Grand Prix, March F1.  The well known March logo was designed by Graham's wife Carol Coaker and served for the next 20 years.

After building a Formula 3 car in 1969, the company turned to F1 in 1970 with 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.

The company launched into Formula 2 as well, but the competition was intense and there were no wins.  Marches also appeared in Formula 3, Formula Ford 1600 and CanAm but without any major success. 

For the 1971 Formula One 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 as of today. 

In Formula 2, Peterson was dominant in the factory March 712M, winning five championship races and taking the European F2 title.  There also were some victories for customer cars and a March 713 won the British Formula 3 title the same year.

Graham Coaker left March in 1971 and was tragically killed racing a March F2 car he had accepted as part of his leaving settlement.  The company lost a second of its founding members at the end of the 1971 when Alan Rees quit to join Shadow as team manager.

In 1972, March did not enjoy the same success as the previous year.  Ronnie Peterson and Niki Lauda drove the factory cars while Henri Pescarolo drove a car entered by Frank Williams.  Rolf Stommelen drove for Eifelland in a car with a body designed by Luigi Colani.  After re-engineering the cars twice, Peterson's third place at the Nurburgring was the only decent result.

In 1973, the March factory team ran an unsponsored Formula 1 car for Jean-Pierre Jarier.  In Formula 2 March began an exclusive engine deal with BMW and Jarier won the title with ease.  The relationship with BMW continued until the end of the European F2 in 1984. 

In 1974, Patrick Depailler and Hans-Joachim Stuck dominated the F2.  March managed to win the European title three more times with Bruno Giacomelli in 1978, Marc Surer in 1979 and Corrado Fabi in 1982.

In 1974, a year full of promise with no reward, the F1 factory team ran Hans Joachim Stuck in a Jagermeister-sponsored car and Vittorio Brambilla in a Beta Tools car.  Although Brambilla won the rain-shortened Austrian GP in 1975, March had little reason to celebrate in Formula 1. 

In Japan's Formula 2, March enjoyed three consecutive titles at the start of the 1970s.  Meanwhile in Formula Atlantic, March chassis won the British title in 1972/73 and had parallel success winning the British Formula 3 title in 1974/75/76.

In 1975, Lella Lombardi became the first woman to score a Grand Prix point.

In 1976 Peterson scored the team's third and last win at Monza.  In spite of the slim results produced, March was the last F1 manufacturer to sell a car to its customers that had the potential to win a Grand Prix.

During the 1977 season, March failed to achieve much and at the end of the year Robin Herd and Max Mosley decided to leave the Formula One. The team's assets were sold to Gunther Schmid of ATS and Max Mosley left the company to become the legal advisor to FOCA and later a member of the FISA F1 Commission.

The final March title in Great Britain came in 1979, with Chico Serra winning the British F3 Championship ahead of five more Marches.

March moved on to win its first European F3 title in 1979 and had continued success with Michele Alboreto's win in 1980 and Mauro Baldi's win in 1981, as well as finishing first and second in a 813-based car entered by Euroracing in 1982.   There was no other Formula 3 car built by March until in 1989 when March had its F3 operation continued by Ralt, which it bought in 1988.

When Ralt started to dominate in F2 and F3 by 1980, March started struggling.  Robin Herd decided to expand into the American market with an IndyCar and an IMSA GTP car.  McLaren's Gordon Coppuck carried out the initial Indy Car planning before he was put in charge of the F2 designs and newly recruited Adrian Newey took over.

The March Indy Cars won twice in 1981, five times in 1982 and seven times in 1983.  Five consecutive Indianapolis 500 wins came in 1983-87 and the company won CART titles with Al Unser in 1985 and Bobby Rahal in 1986.

In IMSA racing, Al Holbert took the March 83G (with Porsche and Chevy) to the title in 1983.  In 1984 March won the Daytona 24 and another IMSA GTP title.  Nissan raced several Marches under their name between 1985 and 1989 but lacked real success.

In 1981, Robin Herd made a half-hearted effort to return to F1 with a joint venture between March and RAM Automotive, called March Grand Prix.  The 811 car was basically a heavyweight copy of the Williams FW07, which had run successfully the previous year, but improvements came too late and during this season Robin Herd decided to retire from the F1 again.

From 1983 onwards, March gave up running a factory team in F2, concentrating its efforts on the Onyx semi-works team.  More successful during the mid-1980s was Satoru Nakajima, winning three consecutive Japanese F2 titles with his March.

The new Formula 3000 in 1985 gave March more reason to celebrate with Christian Danner being the first champion in a March chassis.  He was followed in 1986 by Ivan Capelli and in 1987 by Stefano Modena, both driving Marches, but the arrival of the Reynard chassis in 1988 indicated the withdrawal for March from this class.

1986 was the first year of the American Racing League (ARS), the equivalent of the European F3000, and March was able to win every single event with cars referred to as "Wildcats". 

At the height of the CART success in 1986, Herd introduced the March Group PLC to the London Stock Exchange.  He also entered a new Formula 1 program with the Ford-engined 871 Leyton House.  The car was designed by Gordon Coppuck and driven by Ivan Capelli.

In August 1987, Adrian Newey returned to March and designed the more successful 881 March-Judd, resulting in March finishing in the top three only once but fifth overall in the 1988 Constructors' Cup that season.

In an effort to bolster the customer markets, March bought Ralt in 1988, but Reynard was taking over the market and at the same time the CART program was fading as well.  Robin Herd stood down as chairman to make room for industrialist John Cowen who decided that the company must diversify into finance if it was to survive.

Production was cut to a supply of Wildcat chassis for the American Racing Series.  The company also cut back its CART operations by exclusively building cars for Porsche and Alfa Romeo, but lacked real success.

At the start of 1989, as Cowen was faced with the possibility of putting the company into receivership, the boss of Leyton House, Akira Akagi, bought the March F1 and F3000 operations as well as the wind tunnel in Brackley.  March Racing now changed its name into Leyton House Racing Ltd. with Adrian Newey as one of three executive directors.

March Group PLC was split up into March Merchandising Ltd., Ralt (production cars), Comtec and March Engineering (prototypes).  Robin Herd left March at the end of 1989 and Newey moved on to Williams Grand Prix Engineering in 1990.

In 1992, Leyton House was renamed March F1, but financial constraints limited the team to the use of 1991 models and the budget was limited to the money the drivers brought in.  Formula 3 success in France, Britain and Germany in 1992 could not prevent March Cars' operation from loosing money and announcing the end of an era. 

In 1999, Herd joined forces with former Onyx team owner Mike Earle and announced plans for a new March F1 team. They failed to raise the money but launched an Indy Racing League team called March Indy International in the fall of the same year.