Notes on the cars at Kyalami

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Lotus: The Martini Team Lotus produced a brand new car for Andretti, Lotus 79/5 (or ML 23 by the factory’s odd numbering!) to exactly the same specification as the previous cars, and presumably put together during breaks from finishing off the first Lotus 80. Reutemann still had Lotus 79/2 and Andretti’s previous car 79/4 was the team spare. All three carried the name ESSEX on the sides, the name being a new sponsor for Lotus, represented by an International company who supply the bulk of refined oil to those petrol companies not in the big league.

Tyrrell: Since the South American races Maurice Phillippe had looked at the Ligier cars and added air deflectors on the top of the sidepods of the Tyrrells, just ahead of the rear wheels. Jarier had a brand new car, 009/3 and the prototype 009/1 was the team spare. During practice a rear wheel came off 009/02 (due to not being tightened properly it was said) and the car was reduced to scrap. In a local newspaper interview Pironi was quoted as saying the car had jumped out of gear, which had caused the crash! It probably felt like that as all the drive disappeared. For the race he revered to 009/1.

Brabham: Gordon Murray continues to alter the design of the BT48 Brabham-Alfa Romeo in numerous small ways, so much so that by the time you have appreciated a redesigned bracket or mounting, something else has been changed. The end result is showing great improvement, and thought the V12 Alfa Romeo engine, which has Autodelta inscribed on some of its camboxes as well as Alfa Romeo, looked a bit “vintage” in its casting designs, it is notably oil tight and compact, if rather long. Lauda continued with BT48/2 while Piquet had a brand new car, BT48/3. The original car BT48/1 was the team spare. Among the modifications was the elimination of the “canard” fins on the pointed nose, and a reduction in the size of the rear aerofoil, Murray being convinced that he was getting sufficient down-force from under the car and from its upper surface.

McLaren: When first seen the M28 McLaren looked to be a huge car, with very wide track and very long wheelbase, the aim being to provide the maximum possible air-flow space under the car, but the object may have defeated itself as the car lacks straight-line speed. Experiments were tried with and without nose-fins and with a double-deck rear aerofoil, and a very low-mounted one. A brand new car, M28/3, was produced for Tambay but it refused to run properly so it was abandoned and he reverted to M28/1. Watson struggled along with M28/2.

ATS: The German-owned team based in England produced a brand new car for Hans Stuck, which was effectively D1/04 in their build-programme, but was referred to as D2/02 by the team.

Ferrari: It was only 12 months ago that the T3 Ferrari appeared full of new thoughts on suspension geometry to take maximum advantage of the Michelin radial tyres. Four victories in 1978 would seem to indicate that the T3 was a successful design. Now it is obsolete, superseded by the T4 the design of which has been to take advantage of air-flow under the car. The petrol has been put into a single tank behind the driver, the front suspension has been tidied up and the rear suspension has been made “inboard” with the coil spring/damper units close together behind the final drive and operated by rocker arms. Front and rear anti-roll bars are interconnected hydraulically instead of mechanically as on the T3, and are driver-controlled from the cockpit. The exhaust pipes are tucked out of the way in a remarkable fashion and such air as does get under the car has to squeeze its way past the flat-12-cylinder engine in narrow ducts that have as much resemblance to a venturi as a football boot! When you look “through” a Lotus 79 air-flow begins to make sense. When you try to look “through” the T4 Ferrari you become confused. What the new Ferrrari does have is an immensely smooth upper surface, which is most unusual for a car from Maranello, and any aerodynamic advantage would seem to come from the air-flow “over” the T4 rather than “under” it. As regards overall shape the T4 doesn’t have one. It is a shapeless racing machine, rather than a shapeless racing car and looks like a very effective lawn-mower. It is clearly a very effective racing machine. The two new cars followed on the flat-12 numbering series, being 037 for Villeneuve and 038 for Scheckter.

Fittipaldi: The Fittipaldi F6 designed from scratch by Ralph Bellamy with such knowledge as he could decently take with him from Lotus is another odd-looking racing machine. All its aerodynamic effects are crowded at the back so that it looks a bit like a shuttlecock and the pointed nose looks divorced from the back of the car. Although Emerson Fittipaldi was spending all his time with this new car, and actually raced it, it was not proving significantly quicker than the old F5 model.

Renault: Renault have sufficient problems with their turbocharged V6 engines and running a two-car team, to be panicked into hurriedly cobbling-up a “wing car” or “ground effect” car. When it goes the Renault is very quick, its 525 b.h.p. or whatever is claimed being there for all to see. A lot of people seem to overlook the fact that RS01 is not much bigger than a good Formula Two car, and from its inception it has stayed that way. The Renault engineers led by Francois Castang have managed to develop the car without adding size and weight, which is highly commendable. They had with them the same basic three cars as they used in South America, with Jabouille using RS01/02, Arnoux in RS01/03 and the latest car RS01/04 as the spare. Their next move is to field the V6 engine with twin turbochargers.

Shadow: Apart from having two new drivers who have much to learn about Formula One driving, the Shadow team are fumbling along trying to keep pace with the “mumbo-jumbo” of “wing cars”, “ground effects”, “skirts” and so on. Having repossessed some of their material from the Arrows team they are well provided with obsolete material in the face of the pace being set by some of the other teams.

Wolf: The WR7 continues to be altered and modified in an attempt to make it competitive with a Lotus 79, but results so far are not very conclusive.

Ensign: Morris Nunn produced his latest car that takes the prize for the oddest-looking racing machine, an award held last year by the Wolf WR5 and WR6. The whole front is one tall, vulnerable-looking block of radiators, water and oil, the object being to provide a clear passage along the sides of the monocoque for the all-important “ground effects” air-flow. There were too many other problems with this untried car to ever know if the air knew what it was supposed to be doing. This new model N179 is MN09 in the Nunn series.

Merzario: The ever-resourceful and ever-cheerful Arturo Merzario continues to join in the Formula One scene, though an engine failure and then gearbox trouble put paid to any hopes he had of qualifying for the race.

Ligier: The French team had their usual three cars, no major changes taking place, with Depailler in JS11/03, Laffite in JS11/02 and the prototype car as the team spare.

Williams: There were no changes here as their new car is nearing completion and if all runs to schedule it will be at the next Grand Prix. Alan Jones raced FW06/005 until a ball-joint on the left rear lower wishbone broke, which put the car into a violent spin. It managed to dissipate its kinetic energy without hitting anything but left the driver very shaken and looking forward to having a new car. Regazzoni drove FW06/003 and FW06/004 was the team spare.

Arrows: The Milton Keynes team built up a new car for Patrese, A1/06, incorporating numerous modifications to the basic chassis. Mass took over A1/05, which itself was a resurrection of bits and pieces. – D. S. J.