An interview with Frank Dernie

Joining us on the Motor Sport Live Stage in 2019 at Race Retro, powered by Motor Sport, we asked motorsport icon and Formula One designer, Frank Dernie, a few questions to hear about his career and motor experiences...

1) What started your passion in cars and/or motorsport?
My interest in cars and motorsport came about because I have always been fascinated by how things work, both physical and biological. Cars were a very accessible thing to be interested in and fiddle with. The motor sport side came from noticing that some cars were very obviously faster than others, and I noticed that the world champion was pretty well always the better of the two drivers of the best car. That got me thinking about what it was that made one car faster than another...

2) What was your first ever car?
The first F1 car I designed was the Hesketh 308E (with Nigel Stroud). My first road car was an Austin 1300GT.

3) If money was no object, what is your perfect car?
My perfect car is Gordon Murray's McLaren F1. As a racing car designer I am very disappointed in how heavy cars have become over the years. A Bugatti Veyron weighs the same as 2 McLarens! More of a 2 seat limo than a sports car.

4) Favourite car you've owned?
The favourite car I have owned is probably the TVR Griffith I bought in 1993, though I have had other fun cars too and my current Toyota Prius PHV has a lot to recommend it as an everyday car.

5) Best ever racing story?
There are a lot of good racing stories. My favourite race was the 1979 Canadian GP. Back then there wasn’t the plethora of engineers or data gathering. We didn’t normally do a run on full tank of fuel until the warm up on Sunday. With current rules that could not work! After the warm up I measured the brake pads and calculated the race fuel load only to find that the fuel tank wasn’t big enough for the race and the brakes would wear out before the end. I told Alan Jones he would have to take it easy for a few laps and not let Villeneuve get too far ahead if possible, and I would give him the “pump off” sign when I thought it would be safe to race. It was just a guess based on experience since we had no data then, but he did what we agreed and won. Still my most memorable race and one of Frank Williams’ favourite too.

6) What’s your favourite feature of Race Retro?
I like to see the old cars at Race Retro and bump into old friends and colleagues.