As many new Formula One cars seem to be appearing as the weekly “comics” discover budding new Formula One drivers in Formula Ford, Formula Atlantic or Formula Three, but just as it is a long way from professional Club racing to winning a Grand Prix, it is also a long way from completing the building of a Formula One car to it getting the chequered flag. Although it seems that new cars are springing up at every turn, not all of them are new, merely being the culmination of a long period of design and building. Last month we discussed the new and revolutionary six-wheeled Tyrrell Project 34 that arrived in our midst with no forewarning, other than that Derek Gardner was “busy on something”. The new Lotus 77 was not so much “new” as late in arriving, knowledge of the car having been with us for most of the summer and it was fully expected at the Italian Grand Prix. Since viewing those two 1976 cars, four more have been revealed, two being 1976 developments of 1975 cars and two being brand new designs.
In one weekend the Italian racing enthusiasts hardly knew which way to turn for on Saturday Enzo Ferrari introduced his 1976 Grand Prix car and on Sunday Alfa Romeo introduced a new Brabham powered by their flat-12 cylinder engine from the 33TT12 sports car, both cars being ready for a testing programme prior to the first Grand Prix of 1976 in the Argentine in January, if all the financial “shenanagans” between the Formula One Constructors’ Union, the Organisers’ Union and the CSI are resolved. It is interesting that both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo were able to reveal their new cars to the Press at their respective private test-tracks and that both cars were seen to run, immediately after the unveiling. During the past summer some tests were made at Maranello, on the Fiorano track, of a 1975 car with a de Dion rear axle layout, in which the wheel hub carriers were joined by a tubular “bridge” over the rear-axle/transverse gearbox layout, the wheels thus being kept parallel to one another at all times, as against the current orthodox independent rear suspension in which each wheel moves on its own and has no effect on its mate. This de Dion layout has been perfected and fitted to the first of the 1976 cars. The new model is designated quite simply 312/T2 and the Car on show in October was chassis No. 025, following on the 1974/75 series of cars. Previously the Ferrari flat-12 cylinder series were designated 312B1, 312B2 and 312B3, with a T suffix for the 1975 cars with the transverse gearbox layout. Clearly, this transverse gearbox layout is here to stay for a bit so Ferrari has called the new car T2, not to be confused with the unofficial (T2) used in 1975 for the second of the transverse gearbox cars. The 312/T2 retains the basic layout of the T1 cars, with flat-12 cylinder engine and five-speed gearbox and the new de Dion layout of rear suspension is such that it can be replaced by the orthodox independent layout, if necessary. Special rear hub carriers have lugs to take the ends of the tubular “bridge” or spaceframe de Dion tube, that keeps the hub carriers parallel to each other and this space-frame is spread over the final drive and embraces things like the rear aerofoil support and the battery, the tubes neatly threading their way through existing components. Sideways movement of the de Dion “tube” is prevented by transverse links running under the transmission assembly to a Watt linkage mounted under the centre of the aggregate and radius rods running forward from the hub carriers control “swing” and fore-and-aft movement of the assembly. The bodywork on the new car has been completely revised to conform to 1976 regulations regarding engine air-intakes and air for the flat-12 engine is taken through ducts moulded in the cockpit surround just forward of the scuttle, the cockpit surround being double skinned to feed air back to the engine intakes. The distinctive full-width aerofoil is retained at the front and there are wind-cheating “spats” ahead of the front tyres, these “spats” incorporating air ducts that feed cold air to the front hubs and brakes. In the official specification sheet for this new car the engine is quoted as being a 12-cylinder with 180-degrees between the two banks, delivering a nice round 500 horsepower at 12,200 r.p.m. on an 11.5 to 1 compression ratio, using 98/100 octane AGIP petrol. Bore and stroke remain unchanged, at 80 mm. by 49.5 mm. giving a capacity of 2991.8 c.c.
Hardly had the noise of the 1976 Ferrari 12-cylinder died away over the Fiorano test-track than another 12-cylinder engine, also a 12-cylinder at 180-degrees, burst into life on the Alfa Romeo test-track at Balocco, mid-way between Milan and Turin. At Fiorano the new World Champion Niki Lauda and Gianclaudio Regazzoni had been on hand, ready to defend Ferrari’s World Champion status next year, while at Balocco the two Carlos boys, Reutemann and Pace, were in attendance, for this new Alfa Romeo powered car is for the Brabham team for 1976. The world-wide Martini drinks firm, who originate from Turin, are backing the Brabham team again in 1976 and this new car is the result of a three-cornered collaboration between Brabham team owner Bernard Ecclestone, the Count Rossi di Montelera of Martini, and Alfa Romeo. The whole project has been under way during most of 1975 and the car was expected a number of times during the summer, but never materialised. Some people imagined that designer Gordon Murray was going to adapt a BT44B to take the Alfa Romeo engine, as a prototype experimental machine, but that was quite wrong for he was designing an entirely new car for the Italian engine and Hewland gearbox. Unlike the orthodox Formula One car in which the monocoque chassis ends behind the cockpit, with the engine bolted to the bulkhead, the BT45 monocoque extends along each side of the engine to take pick-up points from the cylinder heads. These extensions, or booms, are also used to carry fuel tanks, helping to keep the balance of the Centre of Gravity as the petrol is consumed. Rising out of these booms are individual air collector boxes for each bank of cylinders, which not only give a clear passage to the airflow over the rear aerofoil, but also provide an extensive side area that can he used in the overall aerodynamic stability design and positioning of the centre of pressure in your calculations. The suspension fore and aft follows that of the BT44B, being simple and straightforward independent to all four wheels, using coil spring/damper units, and Gordon Murray has achieved a very low and compact car on a wheelbase only 2 inches longer than the BT44 cars, and that with an engine that is considerably longer than a Cosworth V8. With complete simplicity Alfa Romeo say the engine will give 500 horsepower in Grand Prix trim, pointing out that the engine was designed and developed for long-distance races that demanded a life of at least 1,500 kilometres, to take in race and practice. For the sprint-type Formula One races of today a life of 300 kilometres would be adequate, so that the engine can be run closer to its ultimate design limits. By a brilliant piece of design and craftsmanship the twelve exhaust pipes from under the engine contrive to wend their way through the rear suspension and under the gearbox to end in a pair of large-bore megaphone tail pipes. If nothing else the Brabham-Alfa Romeo makes a delightful new noise, a really harsh and brutal sound in contrast to the music of the Ferrari and the scream of a Matra V12.
The two works Brabham drivers both gave the car a run round the test-track, showing that the car was ready for serious testing, and while the BT44B cars, with Cosworth V8 power, have not been scrapped it is not the team’s intention to use them in 1976, pinning all their hopes on this new project. Once the prototype car has been tested and proven, four more cars will be built, the supply of engines from Alfa Romeo being limited only by the financial triangle between them, Brabham and Martini, with help from all the normal trade people like Goodyear, Koni, Girling, Ferodo, Fina and so on. As this showing was on Alfa Romeo ground it was natural that the accent was on the Milanese side of things, and Alfa Romeo had on show their 1940 Grand Prix car that never raced. It was a supercharged 1½-litre that would have superseded the immortal Tipo 158 and Tipo 159 had they been found wanting between 1946 and 1951. This unraced Tipo 512 had a 4 camshaft flat-12 cylinder engine mounted behind the driver with a 5-speed gearbox out behind the rear axle. The front suspension was by double wishbones and the de Dion rear axle used single radius arms on each side and a de Dion tube running over the top of the final drive. There are times when you could be forgiven for thinking that the Italians take a long time to develop good ideas!
The Brabham BT45 is a truly all-new car, though like the Lotus 77, a little late in arriving. However, now that it is here it looks promising and should help to enliven the 1976 season. Talking to the Brabham people you felt that they had designed and built a car round the Alfa Romeo engine. Talking to the Alfa Romeo people you felt that they had installed one of their engines in a Brabham car! The Martini people were just smiling pleasantly and hoping the alliance will work.
Also on the other side of the English Channel a new French car was unveiled in Paris, in a static display amid the fumes of French cigarettes. This was the Formula One Ligier, a rather large and fairly orthodox car powered by a Matra V12 engine, with overall sponsorship from the Gitanes cigarette company. The Equipe Ligier-Gitanes are making their first foray into Formula One and many of the people from the Matra-Simca sports car team are involved in this all-French project. Matra have guaranteed an unlimited supply of engines together with maintenance and development work, so it can be assumed that Guy Ligier’s team will carry on from where the Matra-Simca MS120 left off, especially as Jean-Pierre Bchoise is named as the first driver. The aim is to be ready for the Argentine Grand Prix, provided testing at the Dijon-Prenois and Paul Ricard circuits goes well.
While the Ligier presents a very smooth form it is unusual in that the nose cowling with full-width down-thrust surface and “spats” in front of the tyres, has no provision for adjustments, the whole thing being moulded in one piece. The monocoque sides extend back over the radiators and engine, and the engine air-collector box is only legal until the Spanish Grand Prix 1976. As this car is a very nationalistic French affair, it was thought that it might use Michelin tyres, but as shown the car was on Goodyear tyres.
Another new “Cigarette Special” revealed recently was the latest Hill car, from Graham Hill and his sponsors Embassy cigarettes. In a very informal atmosphere it was seen by some people while it was being completed in the London workshop, and for those who were quick enough to follow it up to Silverstone there was a chance to see Tony Brise do some “shake-down” runs before it was whisked off for testing in the sunny south of France at Paul Ricard. This is the GH2 design from Andrew Smallman and in general principles follows the 1975 GH1 series cars, though all the new regulation requirements have been incorporated.
Anyone who still lives under the delusion that “all Formula One cars look the same these days” should make an effort to see Grand Prix in 1976 for if the line-up contains all these new cars variety is going to be the keynote. Six-wheeled Tyrrell, slimline Lotus 77, de Dion suspended Ferrari, all-French Ligier, Brabham-Alfa Romeo, conventional Hill; with V8, V12 and two types of flat-12 engine all added to the regulars, it should produce some of the most interesting races we have seen for a long time.