Rory Byrne (born 10 January 1944) is a South African semi-retired engineer and car designer, most famous for being the chief designer at the Benetton and Scuderia Ferrari Formula One teams.
Byrne-designed cars have won ninety-nine Grands Prix, seven constructors’ titles and seven drivers’ titles. This makes Byrne the third most successful Formula One designer, behind rivals Adrian Newey and Colin Chapman.
By the conclusion of the 1996 season Michael Schumacher was being given free rein at Ferrari to build a team of engineers capable of returning the team to the top of the sport after years of underperforming.
Benetton technical director Ross Brawn was hired and Ferrari approached Rory Byrne to replace the team’s existing chief designer John Barnard who refused to re-locate to Italy.
After long negotiations Byrne was lured from his retirement in Thailand back to Europe where he began building a design office at Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters.
Ferrari were immediately competitive once again, taking the title fight to the final race of the season in both 1997 and 1998. Continuing to build momentum in the following seasons, Ferrari won the constructors’ championship in 1999, their first in 17 years.
By the end of the 2004 season, Byrne-designed Ferraris had secured 71 race victories, six consecutive constructors’ titles and five consecutive drivers’ titles for Michael Schumacher with a sustained level of dominance never before seen in the sport.