Notes on the cars at Kyalami

There was not so much new this year at Kyalami, as in the past, as many teams had got their new cars, or their uprated 1979 cars ready in time for the South American races in January. However, the South African event saw the debut of the 1980 Tyrrell and the 1980 ATS, together with new cars in their 1980 series, from Ferrari, Lotus, Ensign, Renault, Williams and Arrows, so the month break since the Brazilian GP had not been wasted. 


A brand new car (046) for Scheckter, this having the first 1980 monocoque, whereas the previous T5 cars were built up from the bones of last year’s T4 cars. The car Scheckter raced in Brazil (042) was the team spare, and was used by Villeneuve on Friday afternoon and also for the race. The French-Canadian started out with the car that was built up for him in Brazil (045), but when the engine broke on Friday morning he switched to 042 and retained it for the race. At the same time a T4 was on view at the Geneva Motor Show; this was 312T4/040. 


Two brand new series 010 cars, number 1 for Jarier and number 2 for Daly. The previous Tyrrell cars were all in the 00 series, from 1 to 9 and were referred to as “double-o-seven” or “double-o-nine” or whatever the series was. There is no truth in the rumour that the Irish refer to the new cars as “double-o-ten”. They are “o-one-o” even though they do sound a bit like a rather peculiar railway engine. The first new car was shown to the press in Milan, in deference to the Candy Washing Machine firm who are financing the Tyrrell team. It then went to Paul Ricard for some test running, where it promptly broke a suspension member! In South Africa the two cars behaved themselves reasonably well, giving no serious trouble, so that the spare car was not called upon. This spare car was 009/2, a second version as the original 009/2 was destroyed at Kyalami last year. Due to a misunderstanding and a change of plan in the Tyrrell team last year, their test car 009/5 never actually made a public appearance, so in any previous races where 009/5 has been mentioned (e.g. Argentina and Brazil) it should have been 009/2. Team Tyrrell is one of those teams who get out of step with their paperwork and documents occasionally, so that numbers on cars do not always mean what they read. 


The same three BT49 cars as were used in South America with Piquet in number 4 and Zunino in number 5, with number 2 as the spare. This is a team in which the right hand doesn’t always know what the left hand is doing, and if it did they probably wouldn’t admit it as the “bossman” Ecclestone doesn’t like the Press asking intricate questions in case they find out something they shouldn’t. In consequence our informant in South America was given false information and had the cars for the two drivers the wrong way round. Numbers 4 and 5 were brand new for South America and Piquet has always driven the first one and Zunino the second. 


Another muddled team whose paperwork and documents occasionally get out of step with reality. Last month we put the record straight on the M29 cars and the team arrived in South Africa with M29/3C for Prost, M29/2B for Watson and M29/1B as the spare. The latest car came undone and caused Prost to crash in the pre-practice test session, writing off the front end and distorting the monocoque so it was put away and the new French recruit started practice with the spare car. This broke a rear suspension part and caused him to crash again, this time breaking his left wrist. The car was repaired and Watson tried it as a spare to his own car, and decided to race it. 


A brand new design, D4 in the logical progression on what they have been doing, with a shorter monocoque, shorter wheelbase, narrower front suspension and improved aerodynamics. The team decided to restrict themselves to one entry, for Marc Surer, using the new car with the last of the D3 cars as a spare. In the timed session on Thursday afternoon the brakes were playing up and Surer was having to pump the pedal for the sharp left-hander at Clubhouse. On one lap his foot slipped off the brake pedal and hit the accelerator pedal and the car shot into the catchfences and crashed its right-front corner into the concrete wall. The front end was totally destroyed and Surer suffered broken ankles. The number two driver, Jan Lammers “just happened to be at Kyalami”, so he tried to qualify the D3 car on Friday but failed. 


Few identity problems with Team Lotus, apart from changing the pre-fix letters of their cars every time there is a sponsor change. We have been through JPS (John Player Special), ML (Martini-Lotus) and now they are EL (Essex-Lotus), but if we stick to Lotus 81 we shall not become confused. Andretti and de Angelis had the same cars they used in South America, 81/2 for the team leader and 81/1 for the new boy, both cars having their numbers painted loud and clear on the cockpit bulkhead in front of the driver. The spare car was brand new, 81/3. In the pre-practice test-session they had a lot of trouble with bunged-up fuel injection metering units, which wrecked three engines. The cause was eventually traced to a deposit of metal polish left in the fuel filling funnels after they had been “bulled-up” in keeping with the Essex brash image. Although the funnels had been carefully washed after the polishing some of the paste had been trapped in the quick-fitting bayonet socket and had been washed down into the fuel system. Grinding paste in the metering unit is not a good thing. 

On performance the cars were losing out on maximum speed, their cornering being adequate and it was thought that the tightly wound exhaust systems were too short and were losing power at the Kyalami altitude. 


So excited about having enough money from Unipart to form a proper team, with a designer and an engineer, more than enough mechanics and a good solid driver, Morris Nunn forgot the wilderness he was in last year. Then they had raced MN09, so it was accepted that the first new car was MN10 (emm-enn-ten), but now Nunn remembers that they started to build MN10 last year and never finished it. Consequently the first of the new Unipart cars is MN11 (correct your Argentine and Brazilian race reports, now that we know) and for South Africa they had a brand new car, MN12, which was being finished-off in the paddock. Although Regazzoni did a fair bit of running with the new car during practice he raced MN11, that he had raced in South America. In those races they had experienced a lot of misfiring trouble that could not be cured, but when they got back to base a crack was found in the main petrol feed pipe inside the fuel tank, which rises vertically from the collector tank in the bottom of the main tank up to the union on the tank top. As the fuel surged about and the level changed this crack was letting air into the system, and air bubbles in the fuel-injection system are the last thing you want.


Never any problems with the Renault team, they are totally straightforward and totally organised. The pre-fix for this year’s cars was changed from RS (for Renault-Sport) to RE (for Renault-ELF) in acknowledgement of the great help they get from the ELF petrol company. Jabouille had a brand new car, RE23 while the one he used in South America was the spare (RE22). Arnoux retained his South American car, RE21. There is no truth in the rumour that a well-known commentator called him Arnie Renoux! No important design changes were made on the new car, nor to the other two cars, and the way they were going changes would seem to be superfluous. 


With limited sponsorship behind them Don Nicholl’s team are struggling. The side pods of the DN11 cars were painted yellow to carry the name of Villiger, the cigar company who have returned to the fold. The Swedish driver Stefan Johannson was replaced by Geoff Lees in DN11/02 and David Kennedy was in DN11/03, but the cars were hopelessly outclassed and on some corners, especially fast ones, they changed direction in an alarming manner, looking very twitchy and unstable. The two young drivers were heroes without results. There was no spare car for the team, and in the race Lees crashed when the front suspension broke, and in the ensuing spin be crashed into the abandoned Arrows A3 of Patrese, smashing the back of the Shadow very badly. 


With all the 1979 Wolf cars mixed in a pot with all the 1979 Fittipaldi cars and all the personnel mixed in another pot, the resultant mixture being the new Fittipaldi F7 cars, sponsored by Brazil’s Skol Lager, it is not surprising that there were some misunderstandings along the line. When Walter Wolf departed, after his three year stint, he took with him Wolf WR1 and Wolf WR9, the first and the last of his cars, so this meant that the first of the F7 Fittipaldi cars had to be constructed from Wolf WR8, or so the paperwork says now, which is not what we were told last December. So re-write the records; F7/1 was WR8 and F7/2 was WR7. The spare car still remains unraced and is new all through and is F7/3. Emerson Fittipaldi tried the spare car in testing on Wednesday, and Rosberg drove it briefly on Thursday afternoon. 


A lot of detail work on the under-car aerodynamics and the bodywork of the cars since S. America. Swept-forward fins now used on the blunt nose. Some weight has been lost, but not enough, and the cars are very heavy, but their performance suggests that the V12 engine is developing a lot of power. Engineer Carlo Chiti maintains that the poor performance of the Brabhams last year, using the Alfa Romeo V12 engine was due to Gordon Murray’s installation, which was not to the specification demanded by Alfa Romeo. The Tipo 180 has already been out on test at the Balocco proving grounds, and the cars being driven by Depailler (179/003) and Giacomelli (179/001) in South Africa were described as being Tipo 179½, while the spare car (179/002) was a Tipo 179¼!


Great attention was paid to the aerodynamics of the cars, with a view to low drag, for high speed on the long straight at Kyalami, without losing too much down-force for cornering on the back leg of the circuit; the rear aerofoil was very small. The cars are still the modified 1979 models, with forked rocker arm rear suspension, with the spring unit tucked well away, and the brakes mounted outboard at the rear. Laffite drove JS11/15/03, Pironi JS11/15/04 and the spare was JS11/15/01. Laffite’s car was using the very latest DFV to leave the Cosworth factory. 


A brand new FW07 that had been tested with some 1980 suspension and aerodynamic details; this car was number 7 in the FW07 series, with a B-series monocoque which differs only in detail design from last year’s cars, but is constructed differently internally and is stiffer, without being any bigger or heavier. Jones used this car for practice and the race, though to 1979 specifications in general respects. His spare car, used in practice, was FW07B/6 with which he finished third in Brazil. Reutemann used FW07B/5 and tried number 7 during practice. The factory are retaining number 4 and selling numbers 1, 2 and 3. 


Another team that suffers from its right hand not knowing what its left hand is doing, or if it does know it doesn’t say so! A brand new car for Patrese, number A3/3, while a partially new car was built up for Mass. This was number A3/4 using a new monocoque and some of the bits and pieces off A3/2 which Mass had driven in South America. Patrese’s car from South America, number A3/1 was the team spare in South Africa. A lot of detail changes to the skirt design, using different material, new sliders and new spnng mechanism. A few suspension changes and experimental long tails, but they upset the balance of the cars.


One car, FA1/1, for Cheever, with detail changes to save some weight, but the car still presents a large frontal area and looks “big” compared to its rivals. — D.S.J.