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Formula 1

Ted Toleman obituary - Mark Hughes on Ayrton Senna's first F1 boss

by Mark Hughes
2 min read

Ted Toleman - the 1980s F1 team boss, who has passed away, aged 86 - was a petrol-headed businessman.

With his UK car transporter business successfully established, he sponsored an up and coming British-based South African racer Rad Dougall in Formula Ford.

There, he met another South African, future F1 designer Rory Byrne, at the time a designer for Royale, where he was later assisted by Pat Symonds.

But as a guy who ‘got things done’ Toleman quickly outgrew the role of sponsor and, taking Dougall under his wing, formed his own team.

Successful in Formula Ford 2000, Toleman decided to skip Formula 3 and move straight into Formula 2, initially with Dougall, subsequently with Brian Henton (pictured above, centre).

Running a Ralt, Henton came within a driving penalty of the 1979 F2 title in Toleman’s little team.

For 1980 Toleman - again with that characteristic boldness - decided to set up as an F2 constructor. He employed Rory Byrne to design the TG280 - and this time Henton (pictured leading, below) won the title. Team-mate Derek Warwick was third.

Brian Hart had supplied the F2 engines. Toleman, Hart and Byrne decided that Formula 1 was the next step and spent much of 1980 preparing a new Hart turbo-powered car. Pat Symonds was employed to assist Byrne.

The 1981 Toleman - driven by Henton and Warwick - was hopelessly off the pace, but they were quick learners. It became progressively more competitive with Warwick over the next two seasons and when Warwick was recruited by Renault, Ted Toleman replaced him with the rookie Ayrton Senna.

They famously came within an ace of winning the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix together. The red flagging of that race as Senna was catching Alain Prost’s McLaren left Toleman deeply disappointed. At the end of ‘85 he sold out to the Benetton family.

So Ted Toleman’s little Formula Ford team eventually became the title-winning Benetton and Renault team which took Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso to world title glory.

Outside of F1, Ted achieved success as an offshore powerboat racer, attempted a cross-Atlantic sailing record with Virgin's Richard Branson, did three Dakar rallies and entered Le Mans with Tom Walkinshaw.

Toleman spent his final years between the Gold Coast in Australia and Manila in the Philippines.

He had been suffering a long-term illness and ultimately succumbed to complications from cardiorenal syndrome.

Ted is survived by wife Maiti and son, Michael.

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