Water Wolf Racing

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Almost exactly a year ago we were being introduced to the new Wolf racing car and the new team. Walter Wolf had financed the Frank Williams team in 1976, with the Harvey Postlethwaite-designed rubber-spring car, with a variety of second-class drivers. This had got Wolf into the Formula One world, but he wasn’t content to be at the back of the field, he wanted his team to win. Buying out the Williams share Walter Wolf Racing was formed with Jody Scheckter as the sole driver, Harvey Postlethwaite still in charge of design and Peter Warr from Team Lotus as Manager. The first new car WR1 was ready well before the 1977 season began and WR2 was finished in time for the first race in January. A third car was completed in March and Scheckter rang the changes on these three cars throughout the season.

With the pace of Formula One being as furious as it is, it is no surprise when a driver flies off the road, nor is it a surprise when a car is wrecked and totally destroyed. At best some of the components can be salvaged, but often the complete monocoque is scrapped. The past season has been a remarkably successful one for Wolf Racing, but surprisingly they ended the season still with the same three cars, none of them had a major accident and all three still retain their original monocoque chassis. Not one structural failure was experienced throughout the season and invariably the cars were up at the front of the field. At one time Jody Scheckter acquired quite a name for himself by having lurid accidents, but the 1977 Scheckter was a much more mature and relaxed driver, driving more competitively than ever before. He won three races for the Wolf team as well as numerous places and finished second to Lauda in the points race. As regards results it was a fairytale first season for Walter Wolf. His car won its first race, in Argentina, it won the social event of the year at Monte Carlo and it won his own Canadian Grand Prix. He could hardly ask for more.

All told the team did seventeen Grand Prix races and the Race of Champions, and totalled 3,400 actual racing miles. In practice and private testing they did a total of 10,600 miles, a ratio of three non-racing miles to every one in actual competition. Their DAF articulated transporter which carries two cars, covered 15,000 miles in and around Europe, and their Mercedes-Benz 508D van, which will carry a single car, as well as wheels, tyres, engines, etc., covered 18,000 miles. While the total staff of Wolf Racing numbers 28 from chief designer to tea lady, there were eight that actually went to the races. Two cars were taken to each race, with two mechanics per car, a tyre mechanic and the transport driver, plus Postlethwaite and Warr. To keep the wheels turning there were nine Cosworth DFV engines and five Hewland gearboxes to share among the three cars. While two cars were at a race, the third was in the Redding factory being prepared for the next outing, or already on its way to a test-day. Six on the engines were prepared by the engine department of Hesketh Racing, two were looked after by Cosworth Engineering and one by Nicholson-McLaren engines. Of the team’s three victories two were with Hesketh-prepared engines (Argentina and Monte Carlo) and the third with a Cosworth-prepared unit. Quite by chance, all three victories were achieved with the original car, WR1. Before this was built at the end of 1976, a prototype mock-up was made, but never completed. During the season it was made into a complete, but non-running car for use in wind-tunnel testing. With the season over a new car, WR4, is being completed, differing only in small structural differences, and WR1 was stripped to the bare monocoque and modified in line with WR4, with larger cutaways for the driver’s arms, a larger fuel tank space behind the seat and a tidier roll-over hoop over the scuttle. Meanwhile WR2 and WR3 were on a tour of Racing Car Shows in Germany, Italy and Austria, with WR2 having been at the Earls Court Motorfair.

The season will start in South America with WR1 and WR4, while the other two are up-dated for 1978. Whatever happens Jody Scheckter will be adequately armed for the coming season. A noticeable feature in the past season has been the remarkable similarity of the three cars, even Peter Warr cannot tell one from another, his identification being by the mechanics who are with a particular car. DSJ

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