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Days that Shook the F1 World - Last Cosworth races, 2006 // F1 bids farewell to one of their independent engine manufacturers

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Welcome to Days that Shook the F1 World, a Sidepodcast series dedicated to bringing you some of the important dates in F1 History. We’ve looked at races and at controversies so far, and in this sixth episode, we’ll look at the disappearance of a legendary name. The date, October 22nd 2006.

Whilst the final race of an engine manufacturer may not have as much hard-hitting foundation-rocking emphasis as other specific days in Formula 1, Cosworth bowing out after almost forty years in the sport is just as important as any other headline.

Their final race came in Brazil, 2006, where Fernando’s second championship success overshadowed the exit of a supplier who had been in F1 since 1966. Back then, they entered their first season supplying no less than three teams – Stebro, Lotus and Brabham – with engines. By 1967, they were on winning form with the Lotus-Ford.

From a company that began in 1958, with Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth at the helm, the reputation for building strong race engines with high performance levels and excellent support from engineers built very rapidly.

Once they started winning, they couldn’t stop, and these following two facts can only prove what a remarkable engine it really was. Between 1968 and 1974, Cosworth engines were running the cars of every World Champion. Between 69 and 73, Cosworth engines were inside the cars of every single race winner.

Many drivers and champions attribute their successes over the years to the power in their cars, names such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, even Michael Schumacher.

However, as the decades wore on, the big name manufacturers began to enter and dominate the sport. Companies such as Honda, BMW and Toyota had bigger brands and bigger budgets, and teams switched allegiances all too easily.

When Jackie Stewart set up his own team in 1997, he decided to try and repay the favour to Cosworth, snapping them up as engine suppliers. The results didn’t follow, though, and after the team changed hands through Ford and Red Bull, Cosworth’s options within the sport began to run out.

In 2006, their final year, Cosworth supplied both Williams and Toro Rosso, but Williams were the first to admit it was their worst season in decades. However, not all of this can be blamed on Cosworth, as they were first on the grid to successfully make a modern V8 F1 engine rev all the way up to 20,000rpm.

Williams quickly signed Toyota as a supplier, and the fate of Cosworth appeared to be sealed. They announced that 2006 was the end for their name in the sport, and bowed out quietly in Brazil. Afterwards, 200 staff were laid off. The company a lacked a bit of direction. The future looked bleak.

Nowadays, Cosworth say they have learnt a valuable lesson not to keep all their eggs in one motorsport basket. They are now concentrating more on the air industry with contracts including Airbus and Boeing. A return to Formula 1 is not impossible, especially as they have a homologated FIA engine sitting idle. Sadly with the wealthy domination from suppliers like Ferrari and Mercedes, that seems highly improbable.

Anyone with an affinity for Formula 1 through the years knows that Cosworth made history, and you can’t help but feel the sport isn’t the same without them.

Thanks for listening to this episode. You can leave comments about the show, or suggestions for future topics over at Sidepodcast.com. Tune in tomorrow for the last in this series of Days that Shook the F1 World.

Theme music: Dylan in the Movies, Better Days and Causeway, Change in My Lifetime.

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