John Wyer

11/12/1908 - 0/4/1989

Record updated

John Wyer was most famous for the light blue and orange cars of his long time sponsor Gulf Oil.

John Wyer
John Wyer was born in Kidderminster, England. He was an automobile racing engineer and team manager most famous for the light blue and orange cars of his long time sponsor Gulf Oil.

As team manager and team owner, Wyer won the 24 Hours of Le Mans several times. His first victory came in the 1959 edition, in his tenth anniversary as Aston Martin team manager, helping Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori win with the DBR1. The team also won the 1000km Nürburgring in three consecutive years.

In August 1963 he left Aston Martin after being invited to join Ford's new GT40 project. Ford Advanced Vehicles Limited was formed with new premises at Slough and the set-up was managed by John Wyer. Throughout 1964 John Wyer was responsible for the racing programme of the GT40, but at the end of that year Ford decided to split the racing activity between Carrol Shelby and Kar-Kraft, a new Ford racing subsidiary in Detroit. John Wyer and the Slough works were to be responsible for the development of the existing model and in due course to build production road cars.

They won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and then late in 1966 Ford sold the Advanced Vehicles set-up at Slough to John Wyer and John Wil1ment. The new company was called JW Automotive Engineering Limited.  They took on responsibility for the production of the Homologated Group 4 version of the GT40 and the road going M1K3, of which only a few were built.

With backing from Gulf Oil, Wyer created the Ford-powered Mirage M-1, a prototype that won the 1967 1000km Spa. Due to a rule change that came in effect for 1968, prototypes were limited to 3000cc, while sportscars could have 5000cc if at least 50 were built. This applied to the two-year-old Ford GT40s, which were modified by Wyer. As a surprise, Wyer won the World Sportscar Championship for Ford in 1968 even though the 2200cc Porsche 907 were considered favorites at the beginning of the season. The superior power of the 5000cc V8 allowed them to win on fast tracks, and especially at Le Mans two years in a row in 1968 and 1969, even though they were outclassed at twistier tracks.

As it was obvious that the GT40 would finally become obsolete after 1969, Wyer switched to the new Porsche 917. Wyer's team even became the factory's main partner and was a major factor in developing the wedge-shaped Kurzheck tail of the 1970 917K which made the car much more stable than the original 1969 version.

Battling with Ferrari 512, the other Porsche team that was backed by Martini Racing and led by Vic Elford, and even Gulf-Porsche-Stars Jo Siffert and Pedro Rodriguez competing against each other, JWA earned many victories in 1970 and 1971, but not at Le Mans. In fiction, a Gulf-Porsche 917K driven by Steve McQueen won in his Le Mans (film), though, making the Gulf colors even more famous.

In 1972, 5 litre sportscars like the 917s were banned, and the 3000cc Porsche 908 prototypes were also dropped by the factory as the new weight limit was too high, removing the 908's advantage that balanced their lack of power.

Wyer adopted the new 3.0 L regulations and started building Gulf-Mirage prototypes once more, using a Formula 1 Cosworth DFV engine. The successful F1-engine was considered unsuited for endurance racing as vibrations took their toll after several hours, so modifications had to be made. After three years of trying, Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell finally achieved Wyer's last win at Le Mans, in 1975.

The following year, John Wyer retired from automotive competition and sold his team to Harley Cluxton's Grand Touring Cars operation. + hr