Sunday 18th December 2005
David Keith Duckworth (72), the English engineer best known for designing the Cosworth DFV (Double Four Valve) engine, an engine that revolutionised Formula One, died. In 1958 he founded Cosworth with fellow Lotus employee Mike Costin. Costin was obliged to remain with Lotus, having recently signed a restrictive contract; for the first few years Duckworth worked essentially alone at Cosworth until Mike could join him. From the start the company was closely associated with the Ford Motor Company and Lotus, and the two companies found early success in the newly formed Formula Junior in the early 1960s. Not only did these successes finance Cosworth’s move from Friern Barnet to Edmonton, then to Northampton but they inspired Lotus founder Colin Chapman to persuade Ford to finance the production of Duckworth’s DFV (double four valve) engine.
Chapman’s idea was to reduce weight by using the engine as a stressed part of the chassis, bolted straight on to the front monocoque tub, removing the need for a spaceframe around the engine and making it easier for mechanics to maintain the cars. This arrangement has been standard in F1 ever since.
The DFV made a famous debut in the third race of the 1967 season, in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. In the back of the Lotus 49, it proved lightning-quick straight out of the box, with Graham Hill taking pole position and Jim Clark taking the win. Teething problems prevented Clark mounting a serious title challenge but the Lotus-Ford was undoubtedly the class of the field. In 1968 the DFV was made available to all teams, and with its enviable power (about 400 bhp (298 kW; 406 PS)) and relatively low price the DFV quickly began to fill up the grid. This spawned a plethora of small, mainly English-based low-budget teams throughout the 1970s, with the DFV last racing in a Tyrrell in 1985. The DFV’s last race was the Austrian Grand Prix, held on the fast Österreichring circuit, where driver Martin Brundle failed to qualify the underpowered car. By 1985 the DFV, now upgraded as the DFY, was rated at around 540 bhp (403 kW; 547 PS), though it was up against 950 bhp (708 kW; 963 PS) turbocharged cars and had generally become uncompetitive.
The DFV’s last win was at the 1983 Detroit Grand Prix with Italian driver Michele Alboreto piloting his Tyrrell 011 to a surprise, but popular victory. The final podium finish by a DFV powered car came a year later in Detroit when Brundle drove his Tyrrell 012 to second place (Tyrrell were later disqualified from the 1984 season for technical infringements).