Notes on the cars at Paul Ricard

(The French Grand Prix report appears on page 1138)

Of particular interest was the action of the Ecclestone-Brabham team following the banning of fans, for cooling or aerodynamics, by the CSI. The two cars used in Sweden, equipped with the extractor fans, were converted back to normal BT46 specification with the rear aerofoil mounted on its large cross-tube and the waterradiators and nose cowling fins back at the front. The two team drivers kept to the same cars, Lauda (BT46/6) and Watson (BT46/4). The spare car (BT46/5) was fitted with long, deep side-plates extending to the rear of the car, carrying the rear aerofoil, with full-length sideskirts. This was an experimental set-up, a sort of halfway step between the normal BT46 and the fan-cooled BT46B layout. This car had the standard front radiator layout and Lauda drove it briefly during practice.

In a vain attempt to gain some more straightline speed the Tyrrell 008 cars were fitted with squared-off nose fins in place of the normal ones which are angled forward; also a different type of new aerofoil was used. The fuel system was modified with larger collector tank behind the driver’s seat, to overcome a tendency for the system to “ dry-up” on sustained full throttle. All three cars were modified, Depailler driving 008/3 as usual, Pironi 008/2-2 and the spare was 008/5.

So confident are Team Lotus in the Type 79 that the two 1977 Type 78 cars were brought along as exhibition cars. Andretti used 79/3 and Peterson 79/2. Even when Andretti crashed 79/3 during practice there was never any suggestion of him using a Lotus 78. Even with the monocoque of 79/3 slightly creased around the scuttle he preferred to use the 1978 car. 78/2 and 78/3 were not used all weekend, though some of the other drivers would have put them to good use, but to Team Lotus the Type 78 is obsolete.

In the McLaren team Hunt drove M26/3, Tambay M26/5 and Giacomelli M26/7, while M26/1 was the team spare. This last car had openings in the upper surface of the sides of the monocoque in order to extract air from under the car, but whether it is effective is hard to say. It was in the nature of a test car rather than a serious spare for the race.

In Sweden the German ATS had a nearly completed third car in the transporter, though it was never taken out. By the French GP it was completed (HS1/3) and after Rosberg’s car (HS1/2) had trouble with its fuel system the Finn took it over and used it in the race. Mass had the original ATS (HS1/1), all three cars being 1977 Penske PC4 models, modified and uprated by Robin Herd of March, though he is no longer active with the team. The “ new” third car was built up from spares acquired with the two team cars.

Ferrari had the same three cars as used in Sweden, with Reutemann in 036, Villeneuve in 034 and 035 as the spare. All three cars had the front and rear anti-roll bars connected together on each side of the monocoque. A tubular connecting link ran back from each end of the front roll-bar and push-pull cables ran forward from the ends of the rear anti-roll bar. These were attached to two levers pivoting on a short torsion bar mounted inside the radiator duct alongside the cockpit on each side. The object appeared to be aimed at stopping the inside wheels lifting when braking or accelerating in a corner, especially on uphill or downhill bends. As Paul Ricard circuit is virtually dead flat the system was not very effective so it was removed from all three cars on Saturday night. Before the race Villeneuve tried the spare car (035) and decided he liked it better than his own, so used it in the race.

The two Fittipaldi cars had undergone numerous modifications and F5A/2 was used all the time. F5A/3 was the spare and was not used, though it was to the same specification. There was a new rear aerofoil, with a slotted flow in it, the rear suspension was mounted on an entirely new alloy cross-plate, with altered pick-up points in the search for better camber-angle changes, and the engine no longer breathed from an air box, but had the inlet trumpets exposed with a new cowling around them.

Renault had their usual pair of R So1 cars, with RS01/02 carrying modified bodywork around the engine and plastic gaiters over the front top wishbone to smooth the path of the air onto the flat body sides. RS003 was rigged up with a camera for Jackie Stewart to lead the field on the pace lap, while Jabouille planned to race RS01/02, but the engine expired on the first lap.

The Shadow team had a new DN9 monocoque with them in Sweden, but it was not built up into a complete car at the time. In the garages at Paul Ricard this was completed unit DN9/5A, but it was not used, being prepared for future testing. Stuck had DN9/1A as usual, and Regazzoni DN9/4A-2. The third car that was sold to the American Interscope Racing at the Long Beach race has never been seen again.

Having settled on the full-width front aerofoil, like Ferrari, Wolf and Ligier, the Surtees TS20 cars had the whole front end tidied up after the experimental layout tried in Sweden. Team drivers Brambilla and Keegan had their usual cars, TS20/01 and TS20/02, respectively, while TS19/02 was on hand as spare but was not needed.

Although the Wolf team used WR5 for the whole weekend, with a flatter exhaust system and smoother panels over the engine, to improve airflow over the rear wing, they were busy completing a brand new car. This was WR6 and as an interim measure it was fitted with the oldtype exhaust system and engine covering panels off WR5. It was being completed in readiness for testing after the French GP. As a token spare car they had W R1 with them. WR4 has been sold to Teddy Yip, for Rosberg to drive, and he will later take delivery of WR3 as well. Walter Wolf Racing will help them with spares, information and guidance in future races.

In the Ensign team the only notable change was that Derek Daly took over the driving seat from Ickx. He used the later car, MN08 with MN06 on hand in case of emergency. Rebaque practised with his Lotus 78/4 (but like Daly failed to qualify) and also used 78/1 during practice. Merzario with his home-built car, out of March components, also failed to qualify.

The Ligier team were as seen in Sweden, with Laffite racing the 1978 car, JS9/01 but without the large bizarre rear aerofoil seen at Monaco. The interim car JS7/JS9/01 was the spare. The Williams team intended Alan Jones to race 002, but on Sunday morning it broke its gearbox, so a hasty change was made to 001. As these two neat cars are as alike as peas in a pod, the only reason for ringing the changes is to give the chassis a rest now and then. To change from one car to the other is no great problem for the driver, they are both tailored to perfection. Brett Lunger raced his McLaren M26/6, but used his old M 23/11 briefly in practice when the newer car developed an electrical fault. The one-off “ Tico” Martini built car, M K23/1 made a re-appearance, still in the hands of Rene Arnoux, and performed quite well. The Arrows team of gold-painted cars were as in Sweden, with Patrese in FA 1/4, Stommelen in FA1/3-2 and the original car, FA 1/1, as the spare.

Of the favoured Cosworth-powered teams, Lotus had a Cosworth “ development” engine in Andretti’s car, which won the race, Tyrrell had theirs in Depailler’s car and it blew up, McLaren put theirs into Tambay’s car and he used every horsepower it would give, while Scheckter used one in the Wolf. Peterson was using a Cosworth engine prepared by John Nicholson’s firm, as was Hunt. – D.S.J.