Obituary: Famous motorsport designer Richard Divila dies aged 74

Obituary: Famous motorsport designer Richard Divila dies aged 74

Ricardo ‘Richard’ Divila, perhaps best known as the designer of the early Copersucar Fittipaldi Formula 1 cars, has died at the age of 74 after a short illness.

Although he always remained famous for his Fittipaldi connections, Divila was involved with an extraordinary diverse range of motorsport categories and teams in an engineering and design career that stretched over nearly six decades, and which meant he worked with a stellar list of drivers.

For much of that time he worked as a freelancer via his own consultancy company, which meant that he was often juggling multiple roles in different championships and on different continents at any one time. His extensive network of contacts and reputation for getting the job done meant that he was never short of work.

Ricardo Ramsey Divila was born in Sao Paulo on 30 May 1945. He had Czech roots on his father’s side, and held dual Brazilian/French nationality.

He studied mechanical engineering, and with an interest in racing it was almost inevitable that he came across the Fittipaldi brothers, Emerson and Wilson, who were at the forefront of Brazilian motorsport at the time.

He designed a Formula Vee, as well as sportscars, for the brothers and joined them to help out when they went to Europe, with Emerson first making the trip in 1969.

When Wilson decided to start the first all-Brazilian F1 team in 1974, Divila was recruited as the squad’s designer. He created the distinctive FD01/02/03 series, with his surname initial joining Fittipaldi’s in the type number.

Wilson raced the model throughout the 1975 season, but he failed to score a point, logging a best of 10th in the US Grand Prix finale, before retiring from driving.

For 1976, Emerson made a shock move from McLaren to the family team. Divila’s new FD04 was a more conventional looking car, but after showing early pace at its home race – where it was qualified fifth – it proved to be troublesome, scoring only a trio of sixth places.

The car was also used for the early part of the 1977 season, but by then the Fittipaldis had decided they needed extra design help and Dave Baldwin was brought in to oversee the F5 – with the ‘D’ dropped from the type number. Subsequently, Ralph Bellamy, Harvey Postlethwaite and Adrian Newey all had spells at Fittipaldi.

But despite his apparent demotion, Divila remained with the team in a senior technical and race engineering role all the way to its demise at the end of the 1982 season. He even designed its last car – the F9.

He then focussed on his own consultancy business. Early customers included March, Ralt and ADA Engineering, for which he designed a Group C2 car. He worked with the Patrick, Hemelgarn and Provimi Veal teams in Indycar racing, and with Eddie Jordan in F3 and F3000.

In 1987, he joined the FIRST Racing F3000 team as technical director, and also designed an F1 car for the team. But it never raced in its intended form, and Divila was no longer involved when the car morphed into the Life L190.

In 1989, Divila returned to F1 for a stint as chief engineer at Ligier, which was followed by a spell at Fondmetal in 1991. He then went to Minardi, where he worked with future Ferrari and Mercedes technical boss Aldo Costa, and engineered Wilson Fittipaldi’s son Christian.

He then dropped out of F1 for a while, enjoying spells with Apomatox and DAMS in F3000. He also began a long relationship with Courage in sportscars, and joined Nissan Europe as technical director, working with the Primera super touring division, as well as rally programmes. His Nissan involvement expanded to include NISMO, mainly in the Japanese GT series.

In 1997-1998 Divila also worked for Keke Rosberg’s team in touring cars, and then found another ex-world champion employer in 2000 when he returned to F1 with Prost Grand Prix as R&D director, a role he combined with working on the French team’s junior F3000 outfit.

After Prost closed at the end of 2001, Divila focussed mainly on his relationship with Nissan, working extensively in Japan in Super GT and contributing to a string of titles, as well as winning in Super Formula with the Impul team. He moved to Toyota Team SARD in GTs in 2009, but later returned to Nissan.

He remained involved with the European motorsport scene via Pescarolo Sport and was chief technical officer on Nissan’s Deltawing project. Plus, from 2011 to 2016, Divila was a race engineer for Greaves Motorsport in a variety of series.

In his seventies, he showed no sign of slowing down. In 2016, he was reunited with Wilson Fittipaldi as technical director of a new Formula Vee series in Brazil, and last year he took on a similar role for the country’s F4 championship.

He continued to engineer cars in GTs with RJN Motorsport, and even found time for lecturing and journalism. He was also an enthusiastic poster on Twitter, recently keeping followers up to date with the restoration of the original Copersucar chassis.

Published at Sat, 25 Apr 2020 18:06:06 +0000

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