RetroGP Gone but not Forgotten
John Macdonald and Mick Ralph were partners in a car business in Willesden, north London in the late 1960s and Macdonald raced in both saloon cars and in occasional Formula 3 events with March machinery.
These became more regular in 1972 and 1973 (when he used a GRD) but he was never a front-runner. When Macdonald decided to stop racing, Ralph Macdonald Racing went on to run a March Formula 5000 car for Alan Jones in 1975 with considerable success and the following year RAM entered Formula 1 with a pair of Ford-engined Brabham BT44Bs, while the Brabham works team switched to Alfa Romeo engines.
The team hired a string of different pay-drivers for the European races beginning with Loris Kessel and Emilio de Villota. Patrick Neve, Jac Nelleman, Damien Magee, Bob Evans and Lella Lombardi all followed.
There was legal trouble between the team and Kessel at the German GP and the season ended in farce. In the British F1 series RAM was more successful with Guy Edwards winning the Oulton Park Gold Cup in one of the cars.
After several abortive projects RAM returned in 1980 in the Aurora British F1 series, running ex-works Williams FW07s for Rupert Keegan and Emilio de Villota. The Spaniard won the title but his only international race - the Spanish GP (a non-championship event that year) - ended with him causing an accident as the leaders tried to pass him.
For 1981 RAM went into a joint venture with March Engineering and moved premises to the March Engines factory. Robin Herd, Macdonald and Ralph were joined as directors by Guy Edwards who was detailed to find sponsorship. The car was a Williams copy and was raced at the start of the year by pay-driver Eliseo Salazar. The car was not a success and Salazar moved to Ensign and money was found from Guinness and Rizla to run Derek Daly.
Herd and Macdonald soon fell out and Gordon Coppuck was briefly chief engineer before handing over to the young Adrian Reynard.
For 1982 Edwards managed to convince Rothmans, Rizla and Newsweek to sponsor the team and Jochen Mass was hired alongside pay-driver Raul Boesel. The 811 was heavily revised by Reynard but there were disputes with Pirelli which led Macdonald to switch to Avon tires. When Avon withdrew Macdonald bought all the stock but there was no development and the team was uncompetitive as a result.
Rothmans withdrew very quickly and a customer car - run by Onyx Race Engineering for de Villota was a similar disaster.For 1983 the team decided to build its own cars. The RAM-March 01 was designed by Dave Kelly and was a conventional Cosworth car. The team started the year with Salazar and expanded to two cars for the French GPwhere Jean-Louis Schlesser joined the team. Both drivers failed to qualify. Salazar never qualified again and left the team after Belgium. Jacques Villeneuve (Gilles's brother) failed to qualify in Canada and Kenny Acheson had a string of similar failures until the last race of the year in South Africa where he made the grid and raced to 12th place.
For 1984 Edwards came up with backing from US tobacco company Skoal Bandit and the team took on Formula 2 Champion Jonathan Palmer and Frenchman Philippe Alliot. Kelly produced the RAM 02 which was fitted with a Hart 415T turbocharged engine. This proved to be troublesome while Palmer started the year in the reliable old car and finished eighth in Brazil. He soon had a new car but neither he nor Alliot was able to produce any decent results that year.
Mike Thackwell stood in for Palmer in Canada but he also failed to qualify.The team hired Gustav Brunner to design the 1985 car and Skoal Bandit remained the chief sponsor. Alliot struggled and the team's second driver Manfred Winkelhock was killed in a mid-season sportscar accident. Acheson took over but the season ended early with Skoal Bandit pulling out and the team missing the last two races.
Macdonald kept the team alive through the winter but attempts to save it failed and it closed down early in 1986. The RAM 03 became a Formula 3000 car with Salazar driving but failed to score any decent results. Macdonald and Ralph ran a series of Formula 3000 teams under the Middlebridge and Superpower names and eventually built a successful fabrication business, supplying parts to F1 teams.
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