As if creating a line of world-beating racers stretching back from last Sunday to 1985 wasn’t enough, Red Bull’s technical director is rather happy flooring it at Le Mans in a product of his great rival Ferrari.
Even in this age of wind tunnels and supercomputers, designing racing cars is more black magic than rocket science. Don’t tell that to Adrian Newey, though: the second most famous son of Stratford-upon-Avon received his degree from the University of Southampton in Aeronautics and Astronautics, which officially makes him a rocket scientist.
Graduating in the gap between the Apollo and the Space Shuttle programs, Newey dived headfirst into racing instead of rockets. He spent the 1980s in America, and his great talent was already evident in the tender age of 26, when he designed the March car Rick Mears won the 1984 Indy 500 with.
Newey entered Formula One in 1990 and two years later designed one of the all-time dominant F1 cars, the Williams FW14B, which gave Nigel Mansell his world title in 1992. Three more men would drive Newey cars to world titles in the ‘90s: Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Mika Häkkinen.
He spent the Schumacher years at McLaren, then signed up with Dieter Mateschitz’s upstart Red Bull in 2006. Newey’s third car for the team—the RB5 of last year—was a strong contender for the title, hampered only by its rather Chapman-esque fragility.
The RB6, its successor for the 2010 season, looks even faster, although you couldn’t call it rock solid just yet: in three races, Sebastian Vettel has two retirements from first place and a single win to his name.
As for the blue Red Bull Ferrari you can see scattered in this post, it’s a Ferrari F430 GT2, the racing version of Ferrari’s mid-engined V8 coupé. It’s pictured here at the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans in the colors of the AF Corse team. Then-49-year-old Newey was one of the three Brits who drove #78 to fourth place in the GT2 category.
The regular F430 is an aural treat whenever you have to opportunity to listen to its flat-plane V8 hammer away, but the racing F430 is a different matter altogether. It emits a voluminous, vespid, shockingly loud shriek, a compact fury of racing blue, and if you spend an hour or two by the circuit when the Le Mans race is on, it will be one of the first cars you’ll recognize with your eyes closed.
And while the street F430 is now retired in favor of the 458 Italia, you didn’t miss a thing with the GT2’s: head to any endurance race—including this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 12–13—and the F430 GT2’s will be there in force. No word yet on Newey.
Photo Credit: Zsolt Csikós (most of them) and the author (the one with the Ferris wheel)