The Legendary Engineer
John Horsman: 1934-2020

John Horsman, the famed British engineer behind JW Automotive, has died at the age of 85.

John Horsman spent almost his whole life in motorsport.  He was absolutely passionate about taming racecars and played a key role in the success of the Ford GT40, Porsche 917, and Mirage GR8 at Le Mans. The engineer’s tuning work on the 917, especially, has become the stuff of legend.

Horsman studied Mechanical Sciences at Christ’s College in Cambridge and during that period, his interest in motorsport blossomed. After graduating in 1958, he was offered a graduate apprenticeship with Aston Martin Lagonda and it was here that he started a decades-long relationship with the team owner, John Wyer. In 1964, Horsman was involved in the development and production of Ford’s renowned GT40, which took four victories in Le Mans between 1966 and 1969.

Horsman’s work for the Porsche 917 would be the proudest accomplishment in his career.  The flat-12-powered Porsche was proven-fearsome but unruly — none of the four 917s entered in the 1969 running of Le Mans could make it to the finish line. While looking into the reasons of failure, the brit noticed that dead gnats were splattered all over the nose and windscreen of the 917, but not the rear. Horsman then knew there were some serious problems with the aerodynamics and modified the car by raising the rear deck and creating the distinctive short tail, which has since become known as the 917K.

Should you want to know more about this great engineer, you can pick up his autobiography, Racing in the Rain, which was published back in 2006.